Amnesty International had agreed to manage a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel which would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Proceeds from the sale of the 47,000 Tel Aviv tickets would go into a fund to be used by Israeli and Palestinian groups to provide health services for children, bringing together former Israeli and Palestinian fighters, and also families bereaved due to the conflict. An excellent idea but the pro-Palestinians weren’t happy. There was a huge international outcry over Amnesty’s involvement in the fund. Various forms of pressure, including a campaign of one thousand letters to Amnesty, called for their withdrawal from the fund. Amnesty International, which is also hostile to Israel, didn’t really need much persuading. Within a month it withdrew its involvement (August 2009) and refused to be involved with any group that benefits from the concert’s proceeds. Omar Barghouti, a leading light of PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) stated:
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.
Recently, the spotlight of the boycott movement was on Elton John, who was scheduled to perform in June at Tel Aviv. Pressure was brought to bear to prevent his planned Israeli performance. A group called The British Committee for Universities of Palestine wrote him an open letter featuring the usual child killing libel: “You line yourself up with a racist state. Do you want to give them the satisfaction? Please don’t go…You may say you’re not a political person, but does an army dropping white phosphorus on a school building full of children demand a political response?” Another public example is a popular and rather vicious video called “Hey Elton,” which can be found on the Internet. Evidently a lot of effort was put into the piece, which features a song using music based on some of Elton John’s hits, and lyrics modified for pro-Palestinian content. The clip features all the usual suspects of pro-Palestinian propaganda along with some puerile word-play on Elton’s lyrics, such as rhyming candle in the wind with, “Seems to us you lived your life like an ostrich in the sand.”
The “Hey Elton” clip was made by Canadian director John Greyson, who also teaches at York University and is a member of the increasingly notorious “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.” Last year he withdrew a film from the Toronto International Film Festival, and was the main individual behind the anti-Israeli “Toronto Declaration.” He went on to write a letter advocating an international boycott of the 2010 Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival, attaching the names of Jane Fonda and James Cameron without consent, and falsely giving the impression he represented York University.
Many have referred to the absurdity of homosexuals condemning Israel while supporting “Ham-bullah,” Islamicist organisations that often violently oppress homosexuals, and are known to have executed some. Such groups are funded by Iran which punishes homosexuality through imprisonment and corporal punishment, and has executed a large number for the act. To avoid further persecution, many of these people are thus pressured to go through life threatening transgender operations, which are deemed a solution to homosexuality by the Iranian state. Despite such obvious issues, a new conspiracy theory has developed amongst pro-Palestinian activists: the rather offensive notion Israel is trying to “brainwash” homosexuals into supporting the state as a tolerant society, in contrast to surrounding Islamic societies. According to this biased article from anti-Israeli rag The Guardian which overemphasises anti-gay incidents in Israel: “This “pinkwashing,” as it is now commonly termed in activist circles, has currency beyond Israeli gay groups.”
In keeping with this view the clip claims that Netanyahu is using gay tourism as part of a pro-Israel campaign. The video states, “Bibi and his government are using gay tourism as part of their campaign to re-brand Israel,” and shows a few fairly nondescript images of homosexual events that would be quite common in any Western democracy. With an image of Netanyahu, the song continues: “He’s got a rainbow gun, its lots of fun, you know he loves to stroke it til it wanks, B… B… B… Bibi and his tanks.” This is surprisingly base, ugly material, even by the lowly standards of Palestinian advocacy. Feminist Phyllis Chesler, described the compulsive hatred that some direct against Israel as having an eroticised element. If this point is given a more literal interpretation, the use of masturbatory thematically homoerotic imagery is significant. Then the blunt command: “Don’t let Bibi use you as his gay Band-Aid – cancel!”
Towards the end of the video the line: “We’ve got to fight for all human rights” appears. This sentiment could of course be turned back on these pro-Palestinians who only attack Israel whilst almost always ignoring far greater humanitarian issues. The lyric, “Time to answer PACBI’s call” indicates the origins of the music video are with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the leading boycott NGO. Almost in an advisory capacity, the text on the video then goes on to state “If you cancel, Sugar Bear, you’ll probably be called an anti-Semite,” the standard pre-emptive stance by Israeli-bashers to deflect concern over their extremism. Latterly, the video refers to Santana having respected the boycott, as well as a number of the musicians mentioned above.
Despite the boycott pressures, Elton John showed his support for the people of Israel during a performance in Tel Aviv at Ramat Gan stadium on June the 17th. He asked artists who had cancelled their performances in the country to put aside their political allegiances to unite people through music: “Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.” He said to the crowd, numbering some 50,000 Israeli’s: “Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby.”
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