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News :: Human Rights : International : Organizing : Politics : War and Militarism
Massachusetts Activists Call On Leonard Cohen to Join the Cultural Boycott of Israel
02 Jun 2009
Activists from throughout Massachusetts gathered in front of the Wang Theater in Boston on Friday and Saturday May 29th and 30th to demand that Leonard Cohen uphold the cultural boycott of Israel. Demonstrating before Cohen’s concerts at the Boston theater, protesters demanded that Cohen cancel his September tour stop in Tel Aviv, holding signs that said “Leonard Cohen: Don’t Play Israel” and leafleting concertgoers about the call for cultural boycott of Israel.
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Massachusetts Activists Call On Leonard Cohen to Join the Cultural Boycott of Israel


Boston, MA, June 1 – Activists from throughout Massachusetts gathered in front of the Wang Theater in Boston on Friday and Saturday May 29th and 30th to demand that Leonard Cohen uphold the cultural boycott of Israel. Demonstrating before Cohen’s concerts at the Boston theater, protesters demanded that Cohen cancel his September tour stop in Tel Aviv, holding signs that said “Leonard Cohen: Don’t Play Israel” and leafleting concertgoers about the call for cultural boycott of Israel.

Approximately twenty demonstrators showed up for both evenings’ concerts, holding signs and maps that illustrated Palestinian loss of land over the past 60 years. They distributed leaflets with re-prints of the Open Letter to Leonard Cohen signed by 133 Israelis – both Jewish and Palestinian – requesting that Cohen cancel his tour stop in Tel Aviv. The flip side of the leaflet was a copy of the demonstrators’ own signs that said “Leonard Cohen: Don’t Play Israel.” Attendees were encouraged to show Cohen the signs during the concert and to leave the flyers behind them on their seats when they left the show.

In picketing Cohen’s concerts, the Boston demonstrators joined the growing international campaign for cultural boycott of Israel. The Boston protest of Cohen follows Adalah-NY's May 17th protest at Cohen's Radio City Music Hall concert in New York City, and a protest by Ottawa activists outside the Leonard Cohen concert there on May 25th. In all three cities, demonstrators highlighted the importance of boycott as a tool of non-violent resistance to oppression, and encouraged Cohen as a progressive artist to join this resistance in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Palestinian civil society has identified cultural events as a key mechanism that the Israeli government uses to whitewash its ongoing occupation and oppression of Palestinian people. Applying the lessons of the struggle against Apartheid South Africa, in 2005 over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations launched a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and fully complies with international law. Other artists such as Bono and Jean-Luc Godard have declined to present their work in Israel, in part as a result of pressure from this international movement.

“None of us is here to protest Leonard Cohen,” said Heike Schotten, one of the demonstrators. “Rather, we are here to encourage Cohen to do the right thing and uphold the boycott called for by Palestinians. Palestinians have asked for the world’s help in resisting their oppression – responding to that call is the least we can do, and cancelling one stop on a tour of over 30 cities doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”

Bhavin Patel, another demonstrator, agreed: “Cohen really has an opportunity to make a huge impact here. If he were to cancel his stop in Tel Aviv and make it known that this was because of the boycott, that could make a big impression on his listeners and would spread the word about the boycott Israel movement in a powerful way.”

The Boston protesters felt their action was a success. Most concert-goers were interested to learn more about their presence there, and heartened to learn of the boycott movement. Some were so inspired that they gave extra tickets to the demonstrators for free. Protests are currently being planned for Cohen’s upcoming concert in Denver.

(Photos by Susan Barney)


Video of Adalah-NY's protest at the Leonard Cohen concert at Radio City Hall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjU_zdfX9Eg

This work is in the public domain