By Sam Bookman for The SpinOff…

New Zealander Sam Bookman was working at the Supreme Court in Israel when the so-called ‘Boycott Law’ was being challenged. That law has now seen two NZ women targeted in the first ruling, over an open letter they wrote to Lorde last year. Here Bookman – no fan of the boycott movement – argues that the New Zealanders have become the latest pawns in a game for the Israeli right.

Waking on Friday to the news that an Israeli Court had ordered two New Zealand women to pay over $15,000 to three would-be concertgoers, you’d be forgiven a feeling of utter confusion. How on earth could a court on the other side of the world impose such an outlandish penalty for simply writing a letter on this website? The question is all the more perplexing given Israel’s constant claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”. Surely a key tenet of a democracy is protection of political speech? How on earth did it come to this?

To complicate matters further, it seems strange that the order came from an Israeli judge. Israeli courts are widely respected. Despite being one of three countries (along with New Zealand) without a written constitution, Israeli courts as far back as 1953 found ways stop authoritarian governments from restricting free speech, even where it might harm the national interest. After the Israeli parliament enacted a fairly modest bill of rights in the 1990s, judges weaponized it into a powerful bulwark against government power. Courts have blocked rights abuses from torture to private prisons. It’s the kind of stuff that would make lefty Kiwi constitutional lawyers salivate with excitement…

Read the full story on The SpinOff here.

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