Leonard Cohen’s Manager: Western Academics Scuppered Ramallah Concert

By Nathan Jeffay

Published September 25, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Leonard Cohen’s plan to play a sister concert to his Israel gig in Ramallah was scuppered due to pressure from western academics and not primarily due to objections from within the Palestinian community, Cohen’s manager, Robert Kory, told the Forward.

As the sellout Tel Aviv concert was about to get underway, Kory gave a frank interview speaking of the upset he felt when the singer’s Middle East visit became a source of controversy.

He revealed that he and his colleagues came close to pulling the plug on the Tel Aviv date as they were “swamped” with messages of protest — both from people who objected to Cohen playing in Israel because they felt it gave legitimacy to the occupation of land captured in the Six Day War, and from people who objected to the conciliatory tone of the concert, billed an event “for reconciliation and peace.”

Kory said: “At one point the noise level on the left and the right got so loud that we thought: ‘why we need to do this?’ Our promoter Rob Hallett thought: ‘maybe we’ll do the concert; maybe we wont’ — it depended on which day.” Kory said that this is why the concert was not confirmed until the beginning of August.

In June, amid of the controversy about playing Tel Aviv, community groups from Ramallah invited Cohen to play a sister gig there. Cohen was enthusiastic. But as widely reported, in mid-July, his hosts revoked their invitation.

Kory said that the main factor in the cancelation was not internal Palestinian pressure, as was widely assumed, but the fact that “there were academics from the U.K. that came raising hell.” Britain is home to a strong academic lobby that backs the campaign to boycott Israel.

Kory told the Forward: “We have a disagreement. I am an American, I support free speech. They are British academics and I don’t know, they’re ‘right’… I don’t want to name names but there are those in the academic community who suppress speech because they know what’s right.”

After the Ramallah plan went pear-shaped Israeli Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar Nir and Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy issued a joint plea for Cohen to perform the heavily Israeli Arab city of Nazareth. This plan never got off the ground

In a Cohen’s VIP tent before the Tel Aviv concert there were dozens of Palestinians who part company from those who were against the Ramallah concert.

The singer set up a charity, The Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace, which will be kick started with the net profits from the Tel Aviv concert, expected to be $2 million. In the tent were Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members in the conflict and who run initiatives together trying to promote peace. The fund will bankroll their initiatives. They include The Parents’ Circle-Families Forum, which sets up face-to-face meetings between bereaved families from both sides, and an Israeli-Palestinian radio station Radio Kol Hashalom.

“I am Palestinian,” said one man who got up to speak at the event, Ali Abu Awad, from the West Bank. “I was in prison for four years. My mother was in prison for five years. I resist the occupation and I taste the violence. I was wounded and I lost my brother, and I am proud to have Leonard Cohen supporting us.”

Other speakers included the Israeli author David Grossman, who paid tribute to the beneficiaries of Cohen’s new fund. Grossman, whose son Uri was killed in the 2006 Lebanon War when serving in an armored IDF unit, described them as people who refuse to “turn their wound in to a weapon,” instead opting for “decisiveness and courage to choose life again … to act all the time against the gravity of grief and the gravity of despair.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.