10 May 2009

A Message to Leonard Cohen – Don’t Reward Genocide


Dear Leonard Cohen,

We are Jews, Palestinians, Israeli citizens, who hold your poetry and music in high esteem, and it is because of this respect for your artistic contributions and your moral Buddhist commitment to "save all beings" that we hope that our appeal to you to cancel your planned performance in Israel will not fall on deaf ears.

Israel is facing one of its most immoral historical moments. Its ruthless, criminal bashing of the Palestinians has met with little international criticism or curbing. The silence of most of the world’s governments continues to embolden successive Israeli governments to commit more violent acts. Israel has violated numerous international laws, but so far for Israeli Jews life in Israel goes on as if nothing happened. Indeed, your people, Cohen, have built "a new Dachau, And call it love, Security, Jewish culture", as you have so perceptively put it yourself in ‘Questions for Shomrim’, [see below] but only a few voices have been raised against these injustices.

It is left for us, citizens of the world, to condemn Israeli atrocities and crimes against humanity. Dissociating ourselves from Israel’s brutal policies is the only non-violent way now to avoid becoming complicit in the killing, the wounding and the maiming, and the robbing of Palestinians. Faced with all this and more, Palestinians are calling on all people tosupport their struggle for their basic rights. Unfortunately, recognizing Palestinian rights will require a fundamental shift in Israeli society. We suspect that this change will be achieved only via external pressure. The least that one can do in such a situation is not act as if it is business as usual. We see our society becoming more and more calloused and racist and given your longstanding, vocal commitment to justice, we cannot envision you cooperating with continued Israeli defiance of justice and morality; we cannot envision you playing a part in the Israeli charade of self-righteousness. We appeal to you to add your voice to those brave people the world over who boycott Israel. We urge you to cancel your planned performance in Israel.

This letter has been signed, initially, by 110 Israelis - but more signatories are being collected. If you are an Israeli (Jewish or Palestinian) and wish to add your name contact Rachel Giora


And will my people build a new Dachau
And call it love,
Jewish culture
For dark-eyed children
Burning in the stars
Will all our songs screech
Like the maddened eagles of the night
Until Yiddish, Arabic, Hebrew, and Vietnamese
Are a thin thread of blood clawing up the side of
Unspeaking steel chambers I know you,
The lost young summer nights of our childhood
We spent on street corners looking for life
In our scanty drops of Marx and Borochov.
You taught me the Italian Symphony
And the New World
And gave a skit about blowing up Arab children.
You taught me many songs
But none so sad
As napalm falling slowly in the dark
You were our singing heroes in '48
Do you dare ask yourselves what you are now
We, you and I,
were lovers once
As only wild nights of wrestling in golden snow
Can make one love
We hiked by moonlight
And you asked me to lead the Internationale
And now my son must die
For he's an Arab
And my mother, too,
for she's a Jew
And you and I
Can only cry and wonder
Must Jewish people
Build our Dachaus, too?

Leonard Cohen, poem from 1970's
This is Cohen's own comment on the poem:
This poem, first published in the early 1970's, is, tragically, still pertinent today. It was also sent anonymously to a number of rabbis, selected at random, in New York City and posted on traffic lights, lampposts, and other places. The word "Shomrim" refers to members of the left-wing, Zionist youth organizaion Hashomer Hatzair that supported a binational state in Palestine/Israel when I was close to them.

Leonard Cohen, who has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, has long been a cult figure for the doomed and depressed. Classics such as Suzanne and So Long Marianne are part of the 1960’s music scene.
Cohen has always been a Zionist of sorts and in 1973 flew to Israel to join the Israeli military. However what was not clear to many people in 1973 is abundantly clear now with the election of an openly racist, right-wing Government. Israel is an occupier and oppressor state whose own Arab citizens are their on sufferance, such is the nature of a ‘Jewish’ state.

BRICUP, the British Committee for Universities for Palestine has issued a call to Leonard Cohen calling on him to cancel his proposed visit to Israel to perform at a concert on 24 September. They are calling on all supporters to read the open letter to Cohen and send messages to him via his manager, Robert Kory, asking him to abandon this trip.

As Israel’s daily, Haaretz reported, ‘Israel boycotters in U.K. urge Leonard Cohen to cancel Tel Aviv show’

1 comment:

  1. Jan Bontje, the Netherlands15 September 2009 at 12:47

    I fully agree with you. It is shameful that Leonard Cohen should go to Israel for a concert.


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