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Israeli group sues New Zealanders for cancellation of Lorde concert

Shurat Hadin claims two Kiwi citizens caused Israelis 'emotional injury' for their part in singer's decision to scrap Tel Aviv show
Lorde cancelled her July 2018 show in Tel Aviv after calls by activists to boycott Israel (Reuters)

A pro-Israeli legal rights group is suing two New Zealand citizens it claims caused "emotional injury" to Israelis by "convincing" the singer Lorde to cancel a concert in Tel Aviv.

Shurat Hadin is seeking $13,000 from the Kiwis on behalf of three Israeli teenagers, under an Israeli law which seeks to challenge the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The group said it wanted to show the "real consequences to those who selectively target Israel and seek to impose an unjust and illegal boycott against the Jewish state."

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The case marks the first use of the Israeli law, which enables legal suits to be filed against any individual who calls for the boycott of Israel. 

The two New Zealanders, Justine Sachs, who is Jewish, and Nadia Abu Shanab, a Palestinian, both wrote an open letter to Lorde urging the 21-year-old singer to cancel her show in protest at Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Responding to the suit, Sachs on Twitter described it as a "stupid stunt" and said she had learned about the case after a journalist from the Associated Press asked her for comment. 

"Israel is the only 'democracy in the Middle East', where New Zealanders get sued for exercising their freedom of speech... in New Zealand," Sachs wrote on Wednesday. 

Sachs told the New Zealand Herald she had no further comment and added: "I've said all I wanted to say in the open letter." 

Nitsana Darshan Leitner, the lawyer representing the three Israeli teenagers, said the lawsuit was intended to demonstrate the link between the call for boycotts and "harm" it inflicts.  

"These girls [the teenagers] are ideologists. They are going into the army next year, and they feel very shamed and hurt by the allegations that the New Zealand activists blamed Israel for," Leitner told the Guardian.

"They want to say on a personal and an international level, that those who boycott Israel or make a call to boycott Israel will be responsible and they have to pay."

Lorde announced late last year she was cancelling her planned June 2018 concert.

In the open letter, Sachs and Shanab urged Lorde to act " in the spirit of progressive New Zealanders who came before you and continue their legacy".

"Israel might seem like a world away from New Zealand but that shouldn't stop us from speaking out and being on the right side of history.

"Please join the artistic boycott of Israel, cancel your Israeli tour dates and make a stand."

More than 100 artists including musicians, writers, actors and directors signed an open letter published in The Guardian in support of Lorde’s decision to cancel her show in Israel.

Following the show's cancellation, Israel's ambassador to New Zealand, Itzhak Gerberg, asked to meet Lorde to discuss her decision.

In a public letter, Gerberg said Lorde's decision was "regrettable" and the boycott of his country represented "hostility and intolerance".

"I invite you to meet me in person to discuss Israel, its achievements and its role as the only democracy in the Middle East," Gerberg said on the Israeli embassy's Facebook page.