'We are proud to stand for what's right': New Zealand BDS activists respond to Israeli law firm threat

February 3, 2018
Protester with 'Boycott Israel' sign.
Protester with 'Boycott Israel' sign.

In the face of a campaign by supports of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel in protest against its apartheid policies, New Zealand superstar singer Lorde cancelled a planned Tel Aviv concert in December. The BDS call was first issued in 2005 by dozens of Palestinian civil society organisations, and has been heeded by many cultural figures, including musicians.

Now an Israeli law firm has declared it is suing two Palestinian solidarity activists who wrote an open letter urging Lorde to heed the BDS call. The two activists, Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs, respond below.

* * *

Yesterday we heard rumours we were allegedly being sued by Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin. We believed this was a hoax, after receiving the news secondhand from a journalist. We have not received any summons or other formal notice. On this basis, as far as we are concerned, this “case” has no legitimacy. Our New Zealand friends and colleagues at work today were incredulous at news of our rumoured legal predicament. Still, Shurat HaDin has gone to the media alleging to be suing us on behalf of three ticket holders who are seeking $13,000 in damages, some of which is for the “moral and emotional injury” they suffered from being denied Lorde’s concert. We all loved Melodrama, but really?

Despite how ridiculous this all seems, it is an important time to reflect. The fact is, Israel is attempting to suppress those who dare criticise their human rights abuses. Israel thinks it can bully people into silence, recently passing a law banning organisations and individuals who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement from entering the country. Groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights are some of the organisations now blacklisted. Israel’s move to ban pro-BDS organisations is the latest in a long list of anti-democratic actions by the Israeli government aimed at undermining freedom of speech.

Shurat HaDin, who have links to Israeli-state intelligence agency Mossad, are one example of a growing anti-democratic sentiment. The law firm have launched unsuccessful after unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at Israel’s critics. This includes lawsuits against former US president Jimmy Carter, Australian academic Jake Lynch and even the charity World Vision. These lawsuits went nowhere because they have no legal means nor jurisdiction to control what people can and cannot say about Israel abroad. Israel’s unapologetic disregard for freedom of speech won’t wash with New Zealanders either.

With our open letter to Lorde we joined a chorus of millions of people across the world who are calling for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine. People who know the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is a legitimate, non-violent strategy to pressure Israel into ending its occupation and apartheid regime. No intimidation tactics can or will stifle this growing movement. The reality of the situation speaks for itself. Today we’ve been overwhelmed with supportive messages from across New Zealand and the world. New Zealanders value fairness and being able to think for ourselves as a country. We won’t be told what to say. Instead of scaring us, these bullying tactics only embolden us and make it self-evident that there is a right and wrong in this situation. We are proud to stand for what is right.

[Reposted from Medium.]

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