Opposition to the tour has spawned the “Philly, Don’t Orchestrate Apartheid” campaign, whose protests are now in their fifth week.
“We are longtime subscribers and donors to The Philadelphia Orchestra. We are human rights advocates, and we support a just peace in Israel-Palestine. We urge the Philadelphia Orchestra to cancel their tour in Israel, scheduled for June 2018, and to refuse to entertain Israeli apartheid. We strongly oppose this trip, knowing it is used to mask egregious Israeli policies of occupation, apartheid, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people.”
— Letter to the Philadelphia Orchestra from supporters and patrons
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s announcement of a Israel trip in June 2018 sparked a tsunami of letters and protests by human rights advocates demanding the cancellation of the trip. Touted as a cultural mission, the trip was immediately clear as a “Brand Israel” propaganda tour — celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary, while whitewashing the Israel’s expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes between 1947 and 1949.
Culture is inseparable from politics. Artists performing in Israel obscure the reality of the lived Palestinian experience of occupation and apartheid. The itinerary, prominently featuring the orchestra’s name and logo, lists visits to notables responsible for the implementation of Israeli policies which violate Palestinian human rights on a daily basis. For example, the Orchestra will have a “VIP visit” to an Israeli army base, plus a June 4 performance with Israeli army musicians. The orchestra also feted the tour at a gala event, led by Israeli Consul Dani Dayan, a longtime leader of Israel’s right-wing settlement movement.
The trip will also include invitees from Jewish Federation of Philadelphia, in partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra on this “journey.” A previous version of that itinerary included an event with Israel’s right-wing anti-Palestinian, anti-Black Minister of Culture, Miri Regev. Regev’s name was removed from the itinerary just after the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted her involvement.