BRICUP started publishing Open Letters to writers and musicians who’ve announced their intention to perform in Israel during 2008. These letters aren’t only released into cyber-space to go where they will; there’s a particular effort to send them to press and institutions in the artist’s milieu, with the aim of creating a kind of fire-storm around the artist.

So, for instance, after the South African Weekly Mail & Guardian published BRICUP’s Open Letter to South African writer Nadine Gordimer in April 2008, many South African organisations and individuals lobbied her (including Archbishop Desmond Tutu), and the press asked her repeatedly about her intentions. Although Ms Gordimer did not withdraw from the Israeli government-sponsored writers’ festival in Jerusalem that she was scheduled to attend, she did feel sufficiently under pressure to issue a public statement justifying her decision to do so. No-one who read any of the coverage can have doubted the strength of popular feeling behind the boycott call – so perhaps it was no coincidence that within 24 hours of BRICUP publishing an Open Letter to US novelist and anti-racist activist Russell Banks, scheduled to appear at the same writers’ festival, he announced his withdrawal – for ‘personal reasons’.

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen intends to close his current US, Canadian and European tour with a one-off concert in Tel Aviv on September 24. During the 1973 war, Leonard Cohen volunteered to fight in the Israeli army, but later withdrew from the music scene to spend five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery in California. BRICUP has written asking how he can square the Buddhist concept of ‘right action’ with performing in a country whose government and army have so recently committed war crimes against the Palestinians and continue to commit crimes against humanity and international law (see BRICUP’s Open Letter to Leonard Cohen).

The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel immediately distributed BRICUP’s letter to its 400-plus endorsers, and within a matter of days over a hundred Israelis had published their own Open Letter asking him not to go.

A fire-storm of emails began to engulf Robert Kory, Leonard Cohen’s manager ( To his credit, he replied to many of them, and had telephone conversations with (amongst others) the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Artists Against Apartheid in the US, and BRICUP.

It gradually emerged that what Leonard Cohen and his manager were offering was a deal – call off the protests, particularly those at the venues of the European tour, and they would donate the proceeds of the Tel Aviv concert to an unnamed charity.

In response to this, and to the insistence from Robert Kory that Leonard Cohen’s concert in Israel would have a ‘healing effect’, PACBI issued its own Open Letter, ‘Healing Israeli Apartheid, not its Victims?’. PACBI called on ‘all supporters of a just peace in our region’ to ‘shun [Leonard Cohen’s] concerts and CDs and protest [his] appearances everywhere’.

On May 17, the day after PACBI’s call, Adalah in New York held a demonstration outside Leonard Cohen’s concert at Radio City in Manhattan (see the pix and a report at Adalah has made available a very useful package of campaign materials:

It is instructive that after the Radio City demonstration, Leonard Cohen’s spokesperson, Tiffany Shipp, told the Jewish daily newspaper in New York, The Forward, that the Tel Aviv concert ‘has yet to be scheduled’. On May 29 the site administrator at (where there has been vigorous discussion of the boycott call) confirmed to an enquirer that tickets for the Tel Aviv concert are ‘not-yet-existent’.

The dates and locations of Leonard Cohen’s European tour, which starts in July in France, are listed below this article.

But according to the Events Guide published by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, other artists are also scheduled to appear soon in Israel. English musician Joe Jackson will perform on June 30; US singer Suzanne Vega (who shared the Radio City bill with Leonard Cohen in May, and will surely have been aware of the Adalah demonstration outside) on July 19.

And Ha’aretz names Madonna, Kaiser Chiefs, Pet Shop Boys and Guns ‘n’ Roses as some of the artists with whom negotiations are continuing.

So, although Israeli ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor complains that ‘the boycott is a phenomenon that is growing’; and although the executive director of AIPAC, the hugely influential Zionist lobby in the US, saw fit to warn its congress just this May that ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns’ were ‘entering the American mainstream’ as part of a conscious effort to ‘shift policy’; as long as the Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and Leonard Cohen think it’s okay to play there, we have work to do.

Leonard Cohen’s European tour:

  • FRANCE (July 6-9): St. Herblain, Paris, Toulouse, Vienne
  • UK (July 11,14): Weybridge, Liverpool,(July 26) Belfast
  • IRELAND (July 19-23): Dublin
  • NORWAY (July 16-17): Langesund, Molde
  • PORTUGAL (July 30): Lisbon
  • SPAIN (July 31-August 15, September 12-17): Sevilla, Palma De Mallorca, Girona, Madrid, Granada, Bilbao, Barcelona
  • ISRAEL (September 24): Tel Aviv