Entertaining Apartheid Israel Deserves No Amnesty!

The Jerusalem Post report indicates that Cohen and his PR staff,having been criticized for trying to normalize Israel’soccupation and apartheid, are trying to whitewash the concert in Israelby using Amnesty International USA’s good name.  According to the article, "All of the netproceeds from Leonard Cohen’s September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will beearmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinianorganizations that are working toward conciliation," and the fund will be"sponsored by Amnesty."  CurtGoering, the senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA,told the Post, "Wesaw this as an exciting opportunity with potential to recognize, support andpay tribute to the Israelis and Palestinians who have been working for peaceand human rights amid a difficult environment and insurmountable odds.  I see our participation as complementary towhat we do, even though this initiative is different from Amnesty’s ongoingwork."

WHY WE ARECALLING ON AMNESTY TO WITHDRAW FROM THE PROJECT

By supporting Cohen’s concert in Israel,Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effortby Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violationsof international law and human rights principles.  We find this positionby Amnesty particularly frustrating and puzzling given your callfor an arms embargo against Israel following its atrocities in Gaza earlierthis year, which your organization described as constituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty acceptingfunds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.  Profits earned through violations of humanrights and international law are tainted and should not be accepted by anymorally consistent human rights organization, particularly when this money is intendedto be used to whitewash the very violations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture activelyhinder efforts to achieve a just peace.  ThePeres Center for Peace, with its multi-milliondollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously bythe Jerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the newfund’s Board of Trustees.  The PeresCenter has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promotingjoint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are "neither effective in bringingabout reconciliation, nor desirable" and that enhance "Israeli institutionalreputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in theface of continued Israeli Government violations of international law andfundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the GenevaConventions."  A columnist in Israel’s HaaretzDaily called the PeresCenter patronizing and colonial, explaining that "Efforts arebeing made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority andprepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, toguarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews."

Your other indirect partner in this project, according tothe Jerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel’sCoalition of Women for Peace, reports that Israel Discount Bank has branches in the settlements of BeitarIllit and Maale Adumim, has financed construction in the settlements of HarHoma, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a major shareholder in a factory ina settlement.  Amnesty hardly needs anyreminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinianterritory are not only illegal under international law but are considered warcrimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Yourintention to indirectly partner with a bank that profits from the occupationand to oversee a fund that uses some of that legally and morally stained moneycontradicts Amnesty’s founding principles and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternativePalestinian fig leaf has also failed.  The only Palestinian organization falsely reported inthe Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy ChildCenter, has confirmedthat it is not taking part.  There is noPalestinian organization participating in this whitewash. 

BACKGROUND ON THE BOYCOTT

With the international community failing to take action tostop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by theinternational boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society haslaunched calls for Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel,including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural andcivil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on "the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeliacademic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle toend Israel‘s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid."  These Palestinian calls have inspired agrowing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universitiesof Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert inIsrael. Protests against Cohen’s plans to playin Israel were then held atCohen’s concerts in NewYork, Boston,Ottawa and Belfast,among other cities.  Feeling the risingheat of the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to"balance" his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected theRamallah concert. The Palestinian group that was supposed to host the Ramallahevent cancelled its invitation to Mr. Cohen after realizing the adverse e
ffectsthis would have on the boycott movement, which is widely supported byPalestinians. Reflecting the general mood in Palestinian society against anyclaimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation, aJuly 12 PACBIstatement explained, "Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he isintent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing inIsrael. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance’ concerts or otherartistic events in Israel–conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violationof international law and human rights–with token events in the occupiedPalestinian territory."

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distance AmnestyInternational from this discredited project and its tainted money.

Signed:

ThePalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Adalah-NY:The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East

AmericanJews for a Just Peace (US)

Boycott!Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israel)

British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

InternationalJewish Anti-Zionist Network

Jews Againstthe Occupation-NYC

New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI)

PalestineSolidarity Campaign (UK)

US Campaign for theAcademic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

 

Cc:

-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

– Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of AmnestyInternational USA

-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East andNorth Africa at Amnesty International USA

– Colm Ó Cuanacháin, Amnesty International (UK) SeniorDirector, Campaigns

-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International(UK)Senior Director, Research and Regional Programs

-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israeland the Occupied PalestinianTerritories

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