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Toronto Symphony Orchestra Urged to Cancel Concerts in Israel

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         Palestinian musician made to play at a checkpoint

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) will make its first-ever touring appearances in Israel, with performances in Jerusalem on May 11, 2017 and Tel Aviv on May 13, 2017. 

It is very disturbing that the TSO has chosen to align itself with Israel's grave violations of international law and human rights.  

Thus, we ask TSO musicians to reflect on the following appeal from Palestinian artists, and reconsider your participation in the TSO’s planned “Arabian Nights” tour of Israel. 

Palestinian writers, artists and cultural centers are calling on international artists not to perform in Israel until it ceases its grave violations of human rights and international law. They seek freedom from occupation of West Bank and Gaza, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and justice for the refugees. Learn more about the cultural boycott.

Israel uses performances by international artists as a stamp of approval for its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. Irrespective of visiting artists’ intentions their performances are used to cover up Israel’s human rights violations. 

Performing in Tel Aviv today is the equivalent of performing in Sun City in South Africa during the apartheid era. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leader of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, has repeatedly declared that Israel’s apartheid system is comparable to -- if not worse than -- apartheid in South Africa

In the occupied territories, 6,300 Palestinians – including 300 minors, 500 administrative detainees (held without charge) and 13 members of parliament – are imprisoned. Last year, Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinians, including 33 children. Over half a million Israelis live in illegal settlements in the West Bank. More than 6 million Palestinian refugees are denied human rights. This state of affairs is not only unjust; it is unsustainable.

Israel weaponizes culture to cover up its violations. When international artists perform at Israeli cultural venues and institutions, they help to create the false impression that Israel is a “normal” country like any other. The visit by world-renowned TSO will be paraded as an endorsement of Israel’s actions.

“We support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. … we pledge to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”    Artists’ Pledge signed by over 1,200 UK artists – including Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, and Richard Ashcroft.

In February 2017, more than half of NFL players withdrew from an all-expense-paid PR trip to Israel after the Israeli tourism minister claimed the players would serve as “ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.” Seahawks player Michael Bennett declared: “I was not aware that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of goodwill.’ I will not be used in such a manner.”

On this basis, we call on the TSO musicians to join with artists, sports figures and other cultural performers, and say "no" to being used as goodwill ambassadors for colonization, apartheid and occupation.  Say "yes" to the freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians and all people.

 We call on:

  • TSO musicians to say no to being a stamp of approval for Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.
  • TSO to cancel their two shows in Israel, recognizing that the TSO performances are being used to cover up Israel’s human rights violations.
  • Subscribers and members of the TSO to cancel their ties, and for citizens of conscience to not support TSO through donations or attending performance until the TSO cancels its Israel performances.
  • Federal and provincial governments to stop all support of the TSO, recognizing our taxes should not be used to support cultural events for regimes that abuse the human rights of millions of people. 




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