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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Amnesty International caves to Israel boycotters

Leonard Cohen is planning to play a concert in Israel on September 24th. The 47,000 tickets, ranging in price from $90 to $315, sold out in a day.

Cohen turned the concert into a fundraiser for pro-peace groups. He worked together with Amnesty International to create a special fund that would hand out the proceeds to places like a peace group made up of the parents of Israelis and Palestinians killed called the Parents Circle-Family Forum, a children's health program run by the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, an organization that brings together Israeli army veterans and former Palestinian fighters and a center for special needs children in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Cohen tried to also schedule a concert in Ramallah, but this was rejected by the Palestinian Arabs.

The Israeli concert is not in Jerusalem, but in Tel Aviv. In no way can it be considered controversial to anyone who thinks that Israel has the right to exist.

However, the "peace" organizations who do not share that belief immediately started pressuring Amnesty International to withdraw its involvement in a charity that would give literally millions of dollars to groups that are dedicated to Arab-Israeli coexistence. These groups sent an open letter to Amnesty insisting that they stop all involvement with the concert. The signed groups include:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Adalah-NY
The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East,
American Jews for a Just Peace (US)
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israel)
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network www.ijsn.net
Jews Against the Occupation-NYC
New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI)
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

So Amnesty, that paragon of morality, caved to the Israeli boycotters.

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) was approached by representatives of Leonard Cohen for advice on setting up a fund (the Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace) to receive and distribute proceeds from a planned concert in Tel Aviv to benefit the Parents Forum: Bereaved Parents for Peace and Reconciliation and other Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. AIUSA was pleased to offer what help it could. Given the different requirements of AI's work and that of the Fund both have agreed that at this point AIUSA will withdraw from active involvement with the Fund. AIUSA will not be part of the Fund nor benefit financially from the proceeds of the concert in Tel Aviv.

AIUSA is impressed by Leonard Cohen's commitment to use his talent to benefit directly those working for human rights and continues to hope that this wish will be realized.

Amnesty International has taken no position on boycotts anywhere in the world. AIUSA's participation in discussions related to this project was based firmly on the belief that setting up such a fund could be beneficial to Israeli and Palestinian efforts on behalf of human rights."

Even though they claim it has nothing to do with the boycott, that is clearly not true, or else they would not have agreed to help out in the first place. And the boycotters are crowing over their victory:
Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”
This effectively means that Amnesty International supports the boycott of Israel, notwithstanding its denials. If it could not participate in this event - as pro-peace an event as could be imaginable - that means that it will refuse to do anything with Israel that could possibly be construed as anything other than abject condemnation of Israel's existence. And that is exactly what this is - Amnesty happily doing the bidding of groups that want to see Israel destroyed.

Somehow, this is not a problem for AI.

The limited facade of objectivity that Amnesty International claimed concerning Israel has been demolished.