Israel Institute rejects fine on Kiwi BDS supporters


Support for ‘Boycott, Divest and Sanctions’ (BDS) advocates’ right to free speech has come from a surprising source with Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director, Dr David Cumin, defending their right to hold their views, however extreme.

On Wednesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, in Israel, ruled that two New Zealand Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists must pay damages totalling NIS45,000 (approx. NZD$19,000) for their role in the cancellation of a scheduled Lorde concert in Tel Aviv in December last year.

Presiding Judge, Mirit Fohrer, ruled that activists Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab must pay the damages to three Israeli minors named in the lawsuit who had purchased tickets to the concert. The civil suit was filed in January by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Shurat HaDin NGO.

However, Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director David Cumin believes that the decision is flawed and represents an attack on the free speech rights of the two New Zealand women:

“The BDS campaign is discriminatory, based on lies, and works against peace. But that shouldn’t prevent its advocates from being able to express their views – however bizarre and unsustainable they might be.

Silly and discriminatory ideas should be fought with facts, not fines”.Dr David Cumin

Dr Cumin praised the Israeli based Shurat HaDin Law Centre which brought the action against BDS but said that the judgement was wrong.

“Shurat HaDin has done some great work over the years prosecuting individuals and groups that actively provide material support to terrorists committed to murdering Jews and destroying Israel – but this judgement undermines some of their previous work”Dr David Cumin

Dr Cumin says that it is also unlikely that the judgement will be enforceable in New Zealand – and nor should it be.

“New Zealand should continue to be a place where even absurd, controversial and unpalatable views can be expressed by fringe radicals. The Israeli law against BDS is a form of hate censorship, but the intention to prevent harm from malicious or ill-informed speech encroaches on the more important freedom of expression”.Dr David Cumin

Dr Cumin says that the Israel Institute of New Zealand has outlined seven reasons the BDS campaign is seriously flawed and has produced two videos explaining BDS – one shorter and one slightly longer version.

“We need to quash the BDS movement with facts – not censorship – and while it was disappointing that Lorde decided to cancel her concert, that decision was ultimately made by her, not those who lobbied her with slander against Israel”Dr David Cumin