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Cartooning in Conflict
Chicago Nov. 4-6


Open Letter to those who call Leonard Cohen not to appear in Israel

Roni Hirshenson

The artist Leonard Cohen recently announced his intention to tour in Israel. This message led to the composition of a letter signed by 73 academics (mostly Israeli Jews), calling him to remain faithful to his Buddhist beliefs and not to appear in concert in front of a conquering nation. This letter was distributed by email and also sent to the PCFF. Roni Hirshenson, Vice President of the Israeli branch of Parents Circle- Families Forum, wrote a letter in response:

In an open letter academics and others have urged Leonard Cohen not to appear in Israel- I wonder how anyone thought such a foolish attempt could help any of the sides of the conflict. Is his decision to appear in Tel Aviv supposed to express an opinion in favor of Israeli policy? His fans and admirers are not necessarily supporters of the occupation nor are they necessarily supporters of a peace camp.

Calls for different boycotts strengthen the hearts of those who instigate them, filling them with self-importance and satisfaction, but they only serve the narrow interests of extremists in both nations. They simply act as a kind of self-pat on the back which swells a hot air balloon with the hope that it will hold the attention of the media for only moments. The authors hope to have their ideas trickle into collective consciousness and to effect change by showing the facts and painful results of the security policy of Israel to the world, (which has been done for years). Can one really assume that because of the cancellation of a concert a single check point will be removed, construction in the settlements will be stopped or any illegal outposts will come down?

Leonard Cohen's songs with their humanitarian messages, clear statements, and expressions of compassion and empathy, are entwined with great love for humankind and its rights. These songs are the most effective method to turn public attention to the suffering, injustice and bereavement which the people who live in this land, both Israelis and Palestinians, have experienced for many years.
Is that what the signatories on the letter are suggesting we prevent the residents of Israel from experiencing? What good will it do?

We, the members of the PCFF who have paid the price of ongoing conflict, call day and night in every arena in Israel and Palestine for the leaders to choose the way of reconciliation and compromise. We know that empathy to another nation's suffering and needs doesn't weaken the righteousness of our path and isn't necessarily at our expense. Both peoples have a place on this piece of land between the sea and Jordan.
But first, we must find a place in our hearts, through emotional breakthrough, which is something we are dealing with day and night.

A performance of this unique artist with his clear statements reinforces and encourages all who choose not to fall into unfathomable despair, and upholds the message that there is a solution to the conflict here and it really is right behind the door.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"
- Leonard Cohen, Anthem.

The entirety of PCFFs membership are seeing the light, ringing the bells day and night and are calling the nations and their leaders to give up the attempt to realize nationalistic dreams that are not rational, to end the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians in this country, and to prevent even a single soul from experiencing the pain of bereavement.



The original letter:

 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 worlds 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, 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 Israels 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 to support 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



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