August 5, 2009
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and groups around the world have been calling for months for musician Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid 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. Many dignitaries signed the "No Reason to Celebrate" pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel's year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.
Feeling the heat of the protests, Cohen and his PR staff tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert and any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation.
Now Cohen and his PR staff are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to a July 28th article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund. The fund will launder the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.”
In response, sixteen groups and coalitions issued a July 30th Open Letter to Amnesty International calling on Amnesty to be true to its values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel. The groups noted that by supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International is undermining a successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel's occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. Amnesty International also is partnering in the initiative with Israeli institutions that undermine peace, including a bank directly involved in supporting Israeli settlement construction. The only alleged Palestinian partner has announced it is not taking part.
Please email Amnesty International, calling on Amnesty to withdraw from support for Cohen’s concert. Amnesty International is recognized by many as defending human rights worldwide, so please be respectful and courteous in your message.
You can write and email your own letter, or use the sample letter below and email it, or send an editable form letter from here. For reference, here is the full Open Letter to Amnesty International.
If you send your own email, please email your letter to:
-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA
-Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General
-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director
-Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International (UK) Middle East Director, Research and Regional Programs
-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories)
If you email your own letter, please cc it to: [email protected] so that we can keep track of the responses.
SAMPLE LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Dear Amnesty International,
I hold Amnesty International’s worldwide work for human rights and international law in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that Amnesty International has agreed to manage a fund that will disburse the proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s planned concert in Israel in September. I call on Amnesty International to be true to your values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.
By supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel's violations of international law and human rights principles. Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting tainted funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.
Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the "No Reason to Celebrate" pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel's year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.
In his protest resignation from Amnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer, Raymond Deane, wrote: "By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury."
Furthermore, the Israeli partners in the concert, the Peres Center for Peace and Israel Discount Bank, actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. A columnist in Israel’s Ha’aretz Daily called the Peres Center for Peace patronizing and colonial organization that is in the business of training “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel.” According to research by Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel Discount Bank is deeply involved in supporting Israel’s settlement enterprise. Israeli settlements violate the very tenets of international law that Amnesty International works to uphold.
Finally, the only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the July 28th Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.
Thank you for your attention to this vital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International’s withdrawal of its support for the Leonard Cohen concert in Israel.
Your city and country of residence
- The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
- Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East
- Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israel)
- British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
- International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
- Jews Against the Occupation-NYC
- Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
- New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI)
- New York City Labor Against the War
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
- US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel