Leonard Cohen's Ramallah gig called off

Cancellation of internationally-renowned artist's concert seen as a victory for anti-Israel boycott.

Leonard Cohen 3 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy of Guillaume Laurent/glaurent.net)
Leonard Cohen 3 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy of Guillaume Laurent/glaurent.net)
Internationally-renowned artist Leonard Cohen will not be performing in Ramallah as planned. The 74-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter has had his concert in Ramallah canceled in a development viewed as a small victory by groups calling to boycott Israel. Pro-Palestinian activists said Cohen was not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insisted on performing in Tel Aviv, where a concert is planned for September 24. The Palestinian Prisoners' Club, which was organizing the event, decided to cancel the concert because it was becoming too politicized, but the club insisted it did not bow to pressure from boycott organizations. "I wouldn't call it pressure," Qadura Fares, president of the Prisoners' Club, told The Media Line. "We can organize the event - it's not difficult or impossible - but we prefer not to have these hard discussions." "We need people like Leonard Cohen to share his support for the Palestinians and it means a lot, but the boycott [campaign] thinks that it's like the experience in South Africa - that anyone that wants to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom should only visit Palestine and not Israel." Fares said he wanted to maintain the organization's reputation as a nonpolitical entity. "We're a sensitive group and we work with all the Palestinians," he said. "We're not a political organization and we to continue our help to the prisoners without interference of political issues. The administration in the Palestinian Prisoners' Club decided to freeze this event. They will have discussions but for the time being it's been frozen." It appears the concert would have been more a symbolic gesture than a gig to please the fans, especially as, according to Fares, Cohen does not have a large following in the Palestinian territories. The concert would have been attended by families of Palestinian security prisoners, human-rights activists and handicapped people. It was agreed that the concert would be dedicated to the prisoners, Fares said. Organizations calling to boycott Israel were satisfied with news of the cancellation. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) said, "Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel's colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel." The cancellation is seen in the wider context of cultural, academic and trade boycotts of Israel and Israeli products. "PACBI has always rejected any attempt to "balance" concerts or other artistic events in Israel - conscious acts of complicity in Israel's violation of international law and human rights - with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory," the organization said. Grassroots activists are trying to raise awareness about the plight of the Palestinians by calling for these boycotts. Not everyone thinks the boycott is a good strategy to achieve these goals. One Web site carrying the report had a commentator describing the cancellation as counterproductive. "We shouldn't turn anyone away who can lend their name and talent to the liberation of Palestine," he or she wrote. Another commentator, who wrote under the Hebrew name Shai, said Cohen should be reinvited and that "it would be an unusual opportunity to bring a message of solidarity to a Palestinian city and rebuke of Israeli policy regarding Palestinians." Cohen, who is Jewish and has described himself as religiously observant, has not hidden his affiliation with Israel. During the Yom Kippur War he toured IDF bases with a guitar and entertained the troops. The Ramallah concert was supposed to take place on September 26, two days after his concert in Israel, in front of around 1,000 people. Cohen's much-anticipated Israel show is seemingly also facing problems. Discount Bank, one of the sponsors of the concert, officially announced in June that the gig would take place. However, the concert date is not listed on Cohen's official Web site and the ticket sales were delayed for the third time this week. There are rumors that the organizers are running into production problems and face difficulties in raising money to insure the concert. There was no confirmation of Hebrew media reports Monday that the Rolling Stones would be performing in Israel this summer.