We recently discussed the striking down of one of the state laws barring contractors who support the boycotting of Israel. In New Zealand, however, a similar law is in effect and a pro-Israel group is suing two people for simply encouraging pop singer Lorde not to hold a planned concert in Israel. The lawsuit demonstrates the danger to free speech in these laws, which seeks to punish people for their political views, association, and speech. As many on this blog know, I generally oppose any laws that curtail free speech and view the solution to bad speech to be better speech — not criminalized speech. This has nothing to do the merits of the boycotts; only the means used to oppose such views. I have not problem with fans or promoters suing Lorde over a cancelled concert if they lost money. This goes to the right of people to boycott a country due to their personal or political views.
New Zealand passed a 2011 law that allows for civil lawsuits against anyone calling for a boycott against Israel, including of occupied territory.
Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab wrote an open letter to Lorde last year urging her to “take a stand” and “join the artistic boycott of Israel.” Lorde is from New Zealand. She responded with a tweet saying “Noted! Been speaking (with) many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me i am learning all the time too.” She soon thereafter canceled her show.
The group, Shurat HaDin, is suing on behalf of three Israeli would-be concertgoers for about $13,000 in damages. Notably, they are not suing Lorde. The lawsuit obviously creates a chilling effect on speech and appears intended to do so. Few citizens want to risk being forced into court. In this case, the writers include one Jewish and one Muslim citizen who merely wanted to express their support for the movement.
Nevertheless, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of the group and plaintiffs’ lawyer, dismisses the free speech implications of the law and insists that “They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions.”