OPEN LETTER TO LEONARD COHEN
4 August 2009
Dear Leonard Cohen,
You have received many letters asking that you boycott Israel; and we’re sure that many of those who have written to you have been, like us, fans of yours since the 60s; and that we, and our children, know many of your songs word-for-word.
We were struck that you have said you loved the great poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Within months of Lorca’s execution by the fascist nationalists, Franco called on Hitler and Mussolini to carry out the aerial bombing of Guernica (1937). In the years following the defeat of the Spanish movement more that 200,000 people were killed by the fascists, including in Nazi concentration camps.
There was always resistance – the experience of anti-fascists from Spain, including Jewish fighters, who were transported in thousands to Nazi concentration 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’s hands”, the Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic. Dali says it is “the highest honour that can be given to a living artist”. When asked “Isn’t that an act of treason toward Lorca?” he replied with some self-regarding stupidness about having always been a monarchist and an anarchist. In 1975, Franco signed the death sentences of four political prisoners (he died later that year): Dali congratulated him – local people wanted to lynch Dali.
Dali’s sadism and heartlessness raises the central question for all artists – whether art is a discipline that helps express our humanity or 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 to watch out for those who use it to conceal their personal ambitions and damn the lives of others. Some artists use their skills and talents to express and strengthen resistance. Is that not what you intended when you 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 people intent on bringing down the newly-elected fascist regime, was sabotaged by the Zionist leadership who secretly traded with Nazi Germany. The Zionists, including future first Prime Minister Ben-Gurion lied about it, and by-and-large tried to keep the truth hidden: they chose to condemn Jewish people to death in order to build a “Jewish” state. To this day you will hear Zionists discuss the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses and professionals (in the same year, 1933), but have you ever 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 Menachem Begin) was the “latest manifestation of fascism“. They could have been describing any of the Israeli political parties – which ones have not been complicit in planning and executing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people?
Boycott is of course the point of this letter. In July 2005, Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations representing Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel called upon: international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has made it crystal clear in their letter to you: We consider your performance in Israel a form of complicity in its grave violations of international law and trampling on human rights principles. Your planned gig in Israel would come merely months after its bloody military assault against the occupied Gaza Strip which left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 were children, and 5380 injured.
The Israeli government said in last week’s report, “The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects”, that the rockets fired from Gaza “entitled” them to act, that its response was “proportionate”. The asymmetry of power was well expressed in the UK Parliament by Jewish MP Sir Gerald Kaufman when he said that the Irgun, in one action – the bombing 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 – they continue to drip with Jewish and Palestinian blood. We’ve had enough of Zionist racism. We join with our Palestinian sisters and brothers, and in 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 sake of your daughter Lorca, for the survival of the people of Palestine – don’t play Israel.
NB: You will have received a copy of the letter of protest to Amnesty International regarding their role in your plan to play in Palestine. You all have made a deal with, amongst others, the Peres Center for Peace. It was founded by Shimon Peres, also founder of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, who like Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Careful, you are walking with war criminals.
To endorse this letter, go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/IJAN_Leonard_Cohen/