Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

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sirius
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Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby sirius » Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:55 pm

Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah'

Sep. 21, 2009

Ben Jacobson , THE JERUSALEM POST

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite? ... %2FPrinter

When the Toronto International Film Festival recently announced plans to include a series of movies about Tel Aviv as part of its "City to City" feature, movie stars including Danny Glover and Jane Fonda signed a letter refusing to "become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine." As the backlash against the letter became too much to bear, Fonda backtracked and apologized.

And when Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters visited Jerusalem's Sam Spiegel Film School this past June to express solidarity with a Palestinian cultural initiative, he was highly vocal about his feelings that the security should fence be torn down, that all checkpoints be removed and that Jerusalem should split into a capital for two states. When he was asked by The Jerusalem Post how he saw these views as fitting into the context of Israel's rejected final status peace offer at Camp David in 2000, Waters was stumped.

Who cares what professional entertainers have to say about local politics? When it comes to Leonard Cohen, who is scheduled to play to a sold-out crowd at Ramat Gan Stadium on Thursday, the answer is that many people do - especially politicians and activists. Thankfully, though, the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-monk's apolitical platform is marked by enough mystique and individualism to keep him from having to wave any specific flag, perhaps even allowing the show to serve as a true "Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace," as it has been billed.

Rumors circulated for well over a year that Cohen, now in his mid-seventies and on tour since May of 2008, would make a Tel Aviv concert appearance. But when word got out early this past summer that a September 2009 concert was in the works, Palestinian activists were up in arms, demanding that the iconic Canadian singer cancel his performance in Israel. A group of academics under the mantle of the "British Committee for the Universities of Palestine" even issued a plea to Cohen, brazenly stating, "You will perform in a state whose propaganda services will extract every ounce of mileage from your presence."

Cohen's camp responded with the announcement that he'd be playing a show in Ramallah two days after the September 24 Ramat Gan concert, but this move was also not to the liking of Palestinian activists, with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel announcing that "Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel's colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel."

Once talk of a Ramallah concert fizzled out, Israeli Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar Nir, together with Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, appealed to Cohen to perform instead in Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city, which would have allowed the performer to play to an Arab audience in a less politically loaded venue.

Why is everyone so up in arms over a folk singer from the '60s entertaining some civilians with large wallets? Perhaps Cohen's appearance in Israel was taken to be a potentially partisan threat because of the perception that he is "one of ours," having grown up in the upscale Montreal neighborhood of Westmount, where he attended Herzliah High School and Camp Mishmar in his teens and played in the Hillel Band at McGill University.

Later, he would be known for having played impromptu sets for IDF troops during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

BUT COHEN'S world view is hardly oriented towards taking sides in any given conflict - it is, rather, strictly a vehicle for expressing his artistic ideas. Cohen's oft-uniformed "Field Commander Cohen" persona, which has informed several works and inspired the title of a 1979 concert tour, grew out of his posturing as a guerrilla of verse, a rogue revolutionary who champions the cause of the underdog.

Not necessarily as conceptually developed as other artists' alter egos, such as Bono's "The Fly" or David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust," "Field Commander Cohen" made his first appearance when Cohen visited Havana as a young man in 1961, sporting faux fatigues and a beard and reveling in all-nighters alongside the international bohemian set that remained in town after Castro's takeover. "I had this mythology of this famous civil war in my mind," he later said of the stint. Cohen ultimately ended up encountering considerable difficulty escaping Cuba when the country's diplomatic relations with the West crumbled during his visit.

In his 1966 novel Beautiful Losers, Cohen's own militant Quebecois nationalism temporarily came to the fore, although primarily as a poetic device in the context of the work, which was concerned mostly with personal relationships, exemplified by lengthy odes to St. Catherine Tekakwitha.

"Field Commander Cohen" only came into his own in the fall of 1973, when Cohen, facing crises in his career and family life, dropped everything to participate in the Yom Kippur War. Arriving in Tel Aviv from his habitual haven in Hydra, he announced to the press that he had come "to make my atonement" - and to entertain the troops. He also noted that while he had once advocated an unconditional return to the 1967 borders, recent events had inspired a change of heart. Cohen joined a group of local musicians that included Ilana Rovina and Matti Caspi on an informal performance tour of bases close to the front in Sinai, at one point even pocketing a firearm so that he could feel like he was ready to participate in the battles.

In his unpublished memoir, The Final Revision of My Life in Art, Cohen reflected on having shared a bottle of cognac with General Ariel Sharon at a makeshift desert wilderness fort. "I want his job," he wrote of the 1973 meeting, in a sentiment more significant for its self-conscious romanticism of military strength than for its political alignment. After all, the trip to Israel was possibly more about personal redemption for the artist than anything else. In Cohen's mind, Israel was "a place where you may begin again," he would write. To this end, he was determined to perform a pilgrimage from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on foot before his return to Hydra; he ended up wandering back to the cafes of Dizengoff Square after a few hours, of course.

ELEVEN YEARS later, Cohen's public Middle Eastern anti-politics surfaced once again, this time in the context of his compilation of personal psalm-like essays, The Book of Mercy. The work includes several references to the nation of "Ishmael," and in one passage, Cohen tears down all of the region's constructs of alignment: "Israel, and you who call yourself Israel, the Church that calls itself Israel, and the revolt that calls itself Israel, and every nation chosen to be a nation - none of these lands is yours, all of you are thieves of holiness, all of you at war with Mercy... Therefore the lands belong to none of you, the borders do not hold, the Law will never serve the lawless."

So when it came time to satisfy all of the activists and politicians hoping to latch on to Cohen's on-stage message of love this week in Ramat Gan, concert tour planners were charged with doing it outside the box. "Leonard had a very simple thought," Cohen's manager Robert Kory explained to The Jerusalem Post's David Brinn in July. "He said, 'I'd like to play, but I just can't take any money out. I want it to stay there.' It wasn't any more complicated than that."

As a result, both Cohen and AEG Live, the corporate entity behind the tour, will be donating all of their profits from the concert to a new, dedicated charity fund. "We didn't want it to be identified as a Palestinian or Israeli charity," Kory said.

The new fund will consequently be donating proceeds to little-known but groundbreaking grassroots initiatives like the Parents Circle - Family Forum, the Peres Center for Peace Children's Medical Program, Combatants for Peace and Ramallah's Palestinian Happy Child Center. What about those who will argue that some of these causes are themselves biased? "So be it," said Kory. "Leonard's an artist, not a politician, and he doesn't want this to be seen as a political act."

For the perpetual Canadian-American-Jewish-Zen-Greek exile, traditional trappings of nationalism and alignments are to be scoffed at and simply employed as tools for conveying one's own artistic statements.

As Cohen wrote in "Democracy," a 1993 song, which, based on recent set-lists, he's likely to perform on Thursday, "I love the country but I can't stand the scene / And I'm neither left or right / I'm just staying home tonight / getting lost in that hopeless little screen."

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1253198162843&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby tomsakic » Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:07 pm

Finally a calmed and objective article. Also, good research on Cohen's "military" motifs.

Only one *important* addition: Cohen also compared poetry to military service, saying that it needs similar dedication, asceticism and self-control. He was always referring to his world tours as some kind of conquers, as they go from city to the city and the band lives like small army in brotherhood. In 2008 interviews, Sharon Robinson and other new band members confirmed this dedication to professionalism and musical partnership. That's why his 1972 tour band was named The Army, and the band members called Leonard "Field Commander Cohen" in return. That's the whole story behind that artistic "persona", and to describe it as his "guerilla of verse" is quite good way:) But it has nothing to do with Cuba, except that Cohen connected that "persona" with Castro and his 1960 Cuba experience in the song titled after his "tour name", Field Commander Cohen. That song, after all, deals with his life in poetry, or indeed, "life in art". It's also self-mocking, both ironic and serious.

All other "stories" and motifs, like spying, Fidel Castro, etc., are just the poetic licence. The "meeting" with Ariel Sharon is probably pure fiction. Unpublished manuscript "My Life in Art" wasn't quite a biography, but more fictional work/novel, which ended as the core for 1977 book Death of a Lady's Man.
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby seadove » Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:54 pm

I am sorry to sound one sided, but I can't help it, because I probably understand my side of the line better than that of the Palestinians, but I want to say that I expect more of Mr Cohen on issues that have plotical flavors. Sure, he does not live in Israel, and sure, he is not such a practicing jew but then who is? He knows what all this is about, he understands everything about our long journey that started from the story of Isaac and on toward Canaan, off again toward the road of Babylon in chains and it ends up with the construction of modern Israel. On the one hand I am very proud of him that he did not fold in front of the boycotting demand, being that he has already identified what all this is about. It is not really about boycotting Israel but about bullying a person that just happens to be a jew. And the strange thing is, I ask myself, how is this that they let go of Madonna and Hulio Eglesias when the former is a practicing Kaballist while the latter is half jew (from his mother's side which actually makes him technically jewish).

I want Mr Cohen to tell the truth. I want him to stand tall and be proud of his heritage, and not feel awkward or ashamed. On the contrary, he should feel proud to be of priesthood. Israel is his own not less than mine who live here.
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby tomsakic » Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:59 pm

Leonard is telling his own truth, all the way from his early days in literature. He has stated it in Story of Isaac, Democracy, The Faith and numerous other songs very clearly. I believe that his art is his statement. To ask for him "to tell the truth" directly or "to walk proud" could be understood as you want him to say something he can't say, to be your spokesman, as we (the fans) asked Bob Dylan to be a spokesman of the generation in 60s, and Dylan (nor Leonard) didn't want to be that. Leonard is telling his truth and he's walking proudly through his life. If he was untrue, he hopes it was never to you. And he tries his way to be free, and to live his life a thousand kisses deep. I think that we can't ask him for more. His poetry speaks for his life. And that's why he's great singer-songwriter: because his songs, as those I mentioned, go very deep, in the first place, they transcend his own worldview (which is, he says, very traditionalist), and in 2nd place, they go behind the daily "iron masks" (Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, Germans, Croats, Serbs, Muslims, Catholics, etc. etc.), asking the hearts to open in the fundamental way - completely, throuroughly, and behind any "mask" we were born to wear or decided to wear.

For all other things, please let's not continue discussions from Politics thread here in the News section.:)

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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby sirius » Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:55 pm

Seadove, you are well and truly brainwashed. Is there a working awareness in you that functions in the here and now, that is not programmed by your past, by your culture and country, you are a free man not a soldier of Israel. Wake up and smell the poetry......Leonard Cohen transcends culture and politics by appealing to a higher order of reality. Otherwise I and many others would not have appreciated his work for the last 40 years. Performing a charity concert in Tel Aviv does not mean he supports the excesses of the Israeli state and army, however much he may resonate in kinship with the ordinary people of Israel, who are trapped by Karma and History, just like the Palestinians in the cycles of suffering and tragedy.

You Know who I am, who've starred at the sun, well I am the one, who loves changing from nothing to one.

Amen
Last edited by sirius on Mon Sep 21, 2009 8:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby sturgess66 » Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:41 pm

For the perpetual Canadian-American-Jewish-Zen-Greek exile, traditional trappings of nationalism and alignments are to be scoffed at and simply employed as tools for conveying one's own artistic statements.
Very good article about our "gorilla of verse." :lol: :lol: :lol:

Thanks!
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby brightnow » Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:58 pm

Sirius, I'm delighted to see that you have finally decided to address the issue of Leonard and Israel with an appropriate measure of respect for Leonard. Thank you for posting this.
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby seadove » Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:49 am

sirius wrote:Seadove, you are well and truly brainwashed. Is there a working awareness in you that functions in the here and now, that is not programmed by your past, by your culture and country, you are a free man not a soldier of Israel. Wake up and smell the poetry......Leonard Cohen transcends culture and politics by appealing to a higher order of reality. Otherwise I and many others would not have appreciated his work for the last 40 years. Performing a charity concert in Tel Aviv does not mean he supports the excesses of the Israeli state and army, however much he may resonate in kinship with the ordinary people of Israel, who are trapped by Karma and History, just like the Palestinians in the cycles of suffering and tragedy.

You Know who I am, who've starred at the sun, well I am the one, who loves changing from nothing to one.

Amen
Not brainwashed. I think the correct word is sensible. And I will be a free man only after this conflict is over. In the meantime I will continue to be a soldier of Israel. It is quite okey (and cute) for Mr Cohen to address to the higher culture of reality because he is not here to see OUR reality, that is, the Palestinians will continue to cheat their way and finally apply what they have always dreamed of: The establishment of Palestine "in liew" of Israel. You don't believe me? Well then please open any text book that you can find in a standard Palestinian school, and you'll know. In their text books Israel simply does not exist.

Oh yes, we all love the idealistics and songs of Mr Cohen, but we can only "imagine" that it be truth. Unfortunately it is not. No body trusts the Palestinians, not one ounce. Can I tell you what is the differance between the Hammas party and Abu Mazen's Fatah? Well Hammas tells you in your face that they want to destroy Israel, while the Fatah party is faking a some sort of a peace deal and taking as much land back to them so that one day, on any silly excuse, they will also act like Hammas and tell us on our faces that they want to destroy us. You understand this? It sounds paranoia, yes, but it's the Middle East here, you see...

You mention here that the Palestinians are in a cycle of tragedy and suffering. Bullshit! Their standard of living is higher than their arab neighbors and they are continuing to improve, under the auspices of Israel. Go and ask the Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem. They are dreading the day that Jerusalem will be divided. Then their standard of day to day living will deteriorate drastically.

Thank G-d I am a soldier of Israel. I shall not sleep and I shall not slack off. I will guard and defend my country so long as I can breathe standing up.
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Re: Nothing on his tongue but 'Hallelujah' article in J' Post

Postby tomsakic » Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:58 am

There is Politics section, friends.

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