West Bank cancels Leonard Cohen concert in protest against Israel

Palestinian hosts call off Canadian singer’s gig amid claims it was a hollow attempt to ‘balance’ Tel Aviv performance

* Rachel Shabi in Tel Aviv
* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 July 2009 16.49 BST

A Leonard Cohen concert planned in Ramallah on the West Bank in September has been cancelled after the artist became embroiled in a campaign to boycott Israel.

The 74-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter announced he would perform in Tel Aviv as part of his world tour. The Ramallah date was added later, allegedly in response to pro-Palestinian campaigners who had tried to dissuade Cohen from appearing in Israel.

Now his Palestinian hosts have cancelled the West Bank concert, amid claims that the planned gig was a hollow attempt to “balance” performances.

“Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel’s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel,” the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) said in a statement.

The campaign was launched in Ramallah in 2004 and calls for an international academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Cohen, who is not believed to have a large fanbase in the West Bank, was scheduled to play at the 736-seat Ramallah Cultural Palace, a day after appearing at the 55,000 capacity Ramat Gan stadium, near Tel Aviv.

The Ramallah event was to be hosted by the Palestinian prisoners’ club and attended by families of some of the 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails of detention centres.

Israeli fans are concerned that the sale of tickets for Cohen’s performance in Ramat Gan has been postponed three times and the concert date does not appear on his official website.

Some campaigners have expressed criticism at the cancellation of the West Bank gig, describing it as a “missed opportunity” for the high-profile singer to bring awareness to the Palestinian cause.

But one poster to an internet discussion described the cancellation as good news for Palestine because Cohen’s music is “dreary and dreadful”.

Cohen, whose singing career spans four decades, performed in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when he flew in to play for Israeli soldiers fighting in the Sinai desert.

In 2006, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, responding to pressure from campaigners, moved a performance from Tel Aviv to the Arab-Jewish peace village, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. A few weeks ago, documentary filmmakers, the Yes Men, pulled their latest release from the Jerusalem film festival, “in solidarity with the boycott”.

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