Stop the Leonard Cohen Concert in Israel

Take10 minutes to send a letter to concert endorser Amnesty International and signan open letter to Leonard Cohen


ACTION 1: TellAmnesty International that Entertaining Apartheid Israel Deserves No Amnesty!


ISSUEDBY:  ThePalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Adalah-NY:The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East , Boycott! Supporting the PalestinianBDS Call from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities ofPalestine (BRICUP), International Jewish Anti-ZionistNetwork, Jews Against theOccupation-NYC, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK), New YorkCampaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), New York City Labor Against the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign(UK), USCampaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel


August 5, 2009

ThePalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)and groups around the world have been calling for months for musician LeonardCohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. With the international community failingto take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, andinspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end toapartheid in South Africa,Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel,including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Ninety-three artists,writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Manydignitaries signed the "No Reason to Celebrate" pledge and refused toparticipate in any artistic or literary event during Israel 's year-long 60thanniversary celebrations.

Feeling the heat of the protests,Cohen and his PR staff tried toschedule a small concert in Ramallah to "balance" his concert in Israel .However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert and any claimed symmetrybetween the occupying power and the people under occupation.

Now Cohen and his PR staff aretrying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using AmnestyInternational USA's good name. According to a July 28th article in the Jerusalem Post, AmnestyInternational USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund. The fund will launderthe money raised at Cohen's concert in Israel by using it to financeprograms for "peace."  

In response, sixteen groups andcoalitions issued a July 30th Open Letter to Amnesty Internationalcalling on Amnesty to be true to its values and immediately withdraw supportfor Leonard Cohen's ill-conceived concert in Israel . The groups noted that bysupporting Cohen's concert, Amnesty International is undermining a successful effort by Palestinian andinternational civil society to end Israel 's occupation and otherviolations of international law and human rights principles. AmnestyInternational also is partnering in the initiative with Israeli institutionsthat undermine peace, including a bank directly involved in supporting Israelisettlement construction. The only alleged Palestinian partner has announced itis not taking part.



Please email Amnesty International,calling on Amnesty to withdraw from support for Cohen's concert. AmnestyInternational is recognized by many as defending human rights worldwide, soplease be respectful and courteous in your message.

You can write and email your ownletter, or use the sample letter below and email it, or send an editable formletter via the website of the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel:
Further below, for reference, is the full Open Letter to Amnesty International.

-If you send your own email, pleaseemail your letter to:,,,

(Larry Cox, Executive Director ofAmnesty International USA; Curt Goering,Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; ZahirJanmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at AmnestyInternational USA;  Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General;Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director, Malcolm Smart,Amnesty International (UK) Middle East Director, Research and RegionalPrograms; DonatellaRovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israel and the OccupiedPalestinian Territories)

-If you email your own letter,please cc it to: so that we cankeep track of the responses.



Dear Amnesty International,

I hold Amnesty International'sworldwide work for human rights and internationallaw in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that AmnestyInternational has agreed to manage a fund that will disburse the proceeds fromLeonard Cohen's planned concert in Israel in September. I call onAmnesty International to be trueto your values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel's occupation and apartheid, and immediatelywithdraw support for Leonard Cohen's ill-conceived concert in Israel.

By supporting Cohen's concert,Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycottIsrael, a non-violent,effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel'sviolations of international law and human rights principles. Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen's concertin Israel is the equivalentof Amnesty accepting tainted funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.

Ninety-three artists, writers and othercultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Manydignitaries signed the "No Reason to Celebrate" pledge and refused toparticipate in any artistic or literary event during Israel 's year-long 60thanniversary celebrations.

In his protest resignation fromAmnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer, RaymondDeane, wrote:

"By assisting Cohen in his ruse tobypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a politicalstance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it soregularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed.Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed isirrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury."

Furthermore, the Israeli partners inthe concert, the PeresCenter for Peace andIsrael Discount Bank, actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. Acolumnist in Israel's Ha'aretz Daily called the Peres Centerfor Peace patronizing and colonial organization thatis in the business of training "the Palestinian population to accept itsinferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposedby Israel."According to research by Who Profits, a project of Israel'sCoalition of Women for Peace, Israel Discount Bank is deeply involved insupporting Israel'ssettlement enterprise. Israeli settlements violate the very tenets ofinternational law that Amnesty International works to uphold.  

Finally, the only Palestinianorganization falsely reported in the July 28th Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in thisproject, the PalestinianHappy ChildCenter, has confirmedthat it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organizationparticipating in this whitewash.

Thank you for your attention to thisvital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International'swithdrawal of its support for the Leonard Cohen concert in Israel.



Your name

Your city and country of residence




By supporting Cohen's concert in Israel,Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effortby Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel'soccupation and other violations of international law and human rightsprinciples.  We find this position by Amnesty particularly frustrating andpuzzling given your call for an arms embargo againstIsrael followingits atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, which your organization described asconstituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen's concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty acceptingfunds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.  Profits earnedthrough violations of human rights and international law are tainted and shouldnot be accepted by any morally consistent human rights organization,particularly when this money is intended to be used to whitewash the veryviolations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture actively hinderefforts to achieve a just peace.  The Peres Centerfor Peace, with its multi-million dollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously by theJerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the new fund'sBoard of Trustees.  The Peres Center has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil societyorganizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are"neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable" and thatenhance "Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoringjustice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violationsof international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, includingbreaches of the Geneva Conventions."  A columnist in Israel's Haaretz Daily called the Peres Center patronizing and colonial, explaining that "Efforts are being madeto train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it tosurvive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee theethnic superiority of the Jews."

Your other indirect partner in this project, according to theJerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel's Coalition of Women for Peace, reports that Israel Discount Bank has branches in thesettlements of Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim, has financed constru

ction in thesettlements of Har Homa, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a majorshareholder in a factory in a settlement.  Amnesty hardly needs anyreminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territoryare not only illegal under international law but are considered war crimes inthe Fourth Geneva Convention.  Your intention to indirectly partner with abank that profits from the occupation and to oversee a fund that uses some ofthat legally and morally stained money contradicts Amnesty's foundingprinciples and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternativePalestinian fig leaf has also failed.  Theonly Palestinian organization falsely reported in the Jerusalem Post article asbeing a partner in this project, the PalestinianHappy ChildCenter, has confirmedthat it is not taking part.  There is noPalestinian organization participating in this whitewash.




With the international community failing to take action to stopIsraeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the internationalboycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society haslaunched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel,including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural andcivil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on "the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeliacademic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle toend Israel‘s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid."  ThesePalestinian calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement whichgained added momentum following Israel'sassault on Gazalast winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universitiesof Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel hisplanned September concert in Israel. Protests against Cohen's plans to play in Israelwere then held at Cohen's concerts in New York, Boston,Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities.  Feeling the rising heatof the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to "balance"his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert. The Palestinian group thatwas supposed to host the Ramallah event cancelled its invitation to Mr. Cohenafter realizing the adverse effects this would have on the boycott movement,which is widely supported by Palestinians. Reflecting the general mood inPalestinian society against any claimed symmetry between the occupying powerand the people under occupation, a July 12 PACBIstatement explained, "Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he isintent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing inIsrael. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance' concerts or otherartistic events in Israel--conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violationof international law and human rights--with token events in the occupiedPalestinian territory."

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distanceAmnesty International from this discredited project and its tainted money.



The Palestinian Campaign for the Academicand Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI),Adalah-NY: The Coalitionfor Justice in the Middle East, The Alternative Information Center (AIC), American Jews for a Just Peace(US), Architects and Plannersfor Justice in Palestine (UK), Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDSCall from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities of Palestine(BRICUP), IndependentJewish Voices (Canada), InternationalJewish Anti-Zionist Network, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews Against the Occupation-NYC,Jewsfor Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK), New York Campaign for the Boycott ofIsrael (NYCBI),New York City LaborAgainst the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), US Campaign for the Academic &Cultural Boycott of Israel



-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

- Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of AmnestyInternational USA

-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and NorthAfrica at Amnesty International USA

- Colm ÓCuanacháin, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director, Campaigns

-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International(UK)Senior Director, Research and Regional Programs

-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International ( UK)Researcher on Israel and theOccupied PalestinianTerritories



ACTION 2: Sign letter to Leonard Cohen


from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network



4August 2009


Dear Leonard Cohen,                    

You have received many letters asking that you boycott Israel; andwe’re sure that many of those who have written to you have been, like many of us, fansof yours since the 60s; and that we, and our families, know many of your songs word-for-word.

We were struck that you have said you loved the great poet andplaywright Federico Garcia Lorca.  Within months of Lorca’s execution bythe fascist nationalists, Franco called on Hitler and Mussolini to carry outthe aerial bombing of Guernica(1937). In the years following the defeat of the Spanish movement morethat 200,000 people were killed by the fascists, including in Naziconcentration camps.

There was always resistance – the experience of anti-fascists from Spain,including Jewish fighters, who were transported in thousands to Naziconcentration camps, famously organized with other prisoners to sabotage,go-slow, escape, and if possible survive.

In 1964 Salvador Dali, once Lorca’s friend, was awarded, “from Franco’shands”, the Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic. Dali says it is “thehighest honour that can be given to a living artist”. When asked “Isn’tthat an act of treason toward Lorca?” he replied with someself-regarding stupidness about having always been a monarchist and ananarchist. In 1975, Franco signed the death sentences of four politicalprisoners (he died later that year): Dali congratulated him – localpeople wanted to lynch Dali.

Dali’s sadism and heartlessness raises the central question for allartists – whether art is a discipline that helps express our humanityor whether it is a means of indulging ourselves. It’s a choice we make.When artists say they have a right to express themselves, we have towatch out for those who use it to conceal their personal ambitions anddamn the lives of others. Some artists use their skills and talents toexpress and strengthen resistance. Is that not what you intended whenyou sang the anti-fascist song “The Partisan”?

Who collaborates and who resists always has to be a key question.In 1933, the worldwide boycott of German goods, led by Jewish peopleintent on bringing down the newly-elected fascist regime, was sabotagedby the Zionist leadership who secretly traded with Nazi Germany. TheZionists, including future first Prime Minister Ben-Gurion lied aboutit, and by-and-large tried to keep the truth hidden: they chose tocondemn Jewish people to death in order to build a “Jewish” state. Tothis day you will hear Zionists discuss the Nazi boycott of Jewishbusinesses and professionals (in the same year, 1933), but have youever heard them discuss the Jewish boycott of German goods?

Einstein, who was a target of the Nazis, Hannah Arendt and others,wrote in 1948 that Herut (founded by future Prime Minister MenachemBegin) was the “latest manifestation of fascism“. They could have beendescribing any of the Israeli political parties – which ones have notbeen complicit in planning and executing the ethnic cleansing ofPalestinian people?

Boycott is of course the point of this letter. In July 2005,Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions andorganizations representing Palestinian refugees, Palestinians underoccupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel called upon:international civil society organizations and people of conscience allover the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestmentinitiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa inthe apartheid era. We also invite conscientious Israelis to supportthis Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott ofIsrael (PACBI) has made it crystal clear in their letter to you: Weconsider your performance in Israel a form of complicity in its graveviolations of international law and trampling on human rightsprinciples. Your planned gig in Israel would come merely months afterits bloody military assault against the occupied Gaza Strip which leftover 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 were children, and 5380injured.

The Israeli government said in last week’s report, “The Operationin Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects”, that the rockets fired from Gaza“entitled” them to act, that its response was “proportionate”. Theasymmetry of power was well expressed in the UK Parliament by Jewish MPSir Gerald Kaufman when he said that the Irgun, in one action – thebombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 – killed more Jewish people(17), than all the rockets from Gaza ever aimed at Sderot.

In essential ways Zionists have not changed over the years – theycontinue to drip with Jewish and Palestinian blood. We’ve had enough ofZionist racism. We join with our Palestinian sisters and brothers, andin our own defence take up their call for the boycott of Israel.

For the sake of justice and peace, for your own sake, for the sakeof your daughter Lorca, for the survival of the people of Palestine –don’t play Israel.

Click here to sign the letter:






Click here to download the 120-report which exposes the funders of Zionist backlash on campuses and in communities