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!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • 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.