As a Palestinian, the Lawsuit on Lorde's Cancelled Concert Is yet More Oppression

Last month, two New Zealanders wrote to the Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Lorde, urging her to cancel an upcoming performance in Tel Aviv because it "will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government," specifically its systematic abuses of Palestinian human rights.

After tweeting that she was reconsidering her decision in light of what she had learned from the authors of the letter, the New Zealand singer subsequently announced she was cancelling the show, joining dozens of other artists that have observed the cultural boycott of Israel as part of the grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that aims to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Others who have done so include Brian Eno, Lauryn Hill, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Thurston Moore and rapper Princess Nokia.

Now, the two activists, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, are being sued by Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin for "emotional injury." The lawsuit is demanding approximately £9,000 ($12,400) in damages and is being pushed on the basis of the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott.

It is believed this is the first time the law, passed by the Israeli parliament in 2011, has been used.

With more artists, companies, faith groups, academic and student organizations, as well as ordinary people around the world, responding to the BDS call in recent years, Israel has intensified to alarming new levels its efforts to suppress BDS advocates and other non-violent Palestinian human rights defenders.

In Palestine, we are subjected to arbitrary arrests, use of excessive teargas and live ammunition and other violent means.

While the repression of Palestinian mobilization is not new to Palestinians, Israel is now using the contours of law to further extend its draconian methods abroad to sustain its occupation

It recently released a blacklist of organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) and Jewish Voice for Peace, whose leaders and prominent members are now banned from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories because of their support for BDS. Ironically, it is essentially combating a boycott by boycotting others.

In the occupied territories, Israel is cracking down on human rights defenders with trumped-up charges in its military court system, which has a more than 99 percent conviction rate for Palestinians. This means that children, like Ahed Tamimi, are being tried in military courts for defending their homes as they grow up under the surveillance of Israeli forces and night raids.

In the U.S., lawmakers who support Israel have passed a series of anti-BDS laws in some dozen states and Congress, threatening the Constitutional right to freedom of speech for all Americans. Most of these laws, which have been condemned by civil liberties groups, prohibit state agencies from investing in or contracting with companies or individuals that abide by boycotts related to Israeli human rights abuses.

The call for the non-violent action of culturally boycotting Israel serves as a reminder to the international community that Israel was built on the dispossession of Palestinians from their lands and sustains itself through a brutal military occupation that harasses, imprisons, and abuses children, that steals homes, land, and natural resources from Palestinians and gives them to Israelis living in illegal settlements, and denies millions of people the most basic rights and freedoms.

The Israeli army has more than 500 official checkpoints and other impediments to Palestinian movement inside the West Bank, making ordinary life all but impossible. I cannot see friends in Jerusalem, or even visit my village because sometimes the army declares it a closed military zone.

Israel has systematically dissected and isolated Palestinian population centers in the West Bank into bantustans, dividing them with settlements, walls, Israeli-only roads, and military bases.

For more than ten years, Israel has imposed an illegal siege and naval blockade on Gaza, a form of collective punishment against the 2 million people living there.

Inside Israel's pre-1967 borders, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are treated as second- and third-class citizens and subject to dozens of discriminatory laws. And Palestinian refugees are denied their internationally recognized legal right of return to lands they were expelled from by Israel during and after its establishment in 1948, simply because they are not Jewish.

Lorde
Singer Lorde performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall on January 26, 2018 in New York City. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

In response to these and myriad other abuses, and in an effort to achieve freedom, justice and equality, Palestinians founded the BDS movement in 2005 as an extension of their boycott efforts during the first uprising of 1987.

The purpose of the BDS movement is to use nonviolent pressure on Israel until it begins to respect Palestinian rights. It was inspired by the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the U.S. Civil Rights movement.

The BDS movement exists for a reason. Without Israel's occupation and denial of Palestinian rights and freedom there would be no need for it. The fact that Israel is taking severe measures to counter it shows its power and effectiveness.

As Palestinians, we welcome Lorde's cancellation as a form of not being complicit in our oppression and apartheid.

Still, it is important to be aware that as the BDS movement grows and others join the call, Israel will likely escalate its attempts to silence and repress the voices of artists and others who support Palestinian human rights.

As such, it is important to remember why there is a boycott call in the first place, and to stand by the call for justice, dignity and liberation of not just Palestinians, but all oppressed peoples.


Mariam Barghouti is a writer based in Ramallah. You can follow her on Twitter.