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April 12, 2018

Protesters to speak out again against Philly Orchestra’s planned Israel visit

The orchestra's second trip to Israel they claim is not political

Protests Philadelphia Orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra Visit Philly /for PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Like they did last Friday, protesters are expected once again to gather this evening outside the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in objection to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s planned upcoming June performance tour in Israel.

Members of the Philadelphia Don't Orchestrate Apartheid group have said it wants cultural institutions like the Philadelphia Orchestra to stop legitimizing Israeli oppression and apartheid by taking part in Brand Israel.

Brand Israel, the group explained, is an Israeli government propaganda strategy that supposedly exploits visits by international artists to steer negative attention away from the violent, repressive policies in place towards indigenous Palestinians.

“This is a cultural institution in Philadelphia using art to cover up a foreign government’s war crimes,” Susan Abulhawa, member of the Philadelphia Don't Orchestrate Apartheid group, told PhillyVoice.

“For the Philly orchestra to participate in a foreign government’s propaganda campaign is not okay, particularly when Israel is committing war crimes as we speak,” Abulhawa said.

More than 100 musicians, union members and activists, scholars, artists and 33 social justice organizations have called on the Philadelphia Orchestra to cancel the planned tour, urging the orchestra not to lend its name to what they perceive as the covering up of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

The visit will mark the second time the Philadelphia Orchestra has traveled to Israel since its inaugural visit in 1992.

Philadelphia Orchestra representatives have previously stated that their performance in Israel is a form of cultural diplomacy as well as a celebration of the country’s 70th anniversary, and not a political mission.

“We’ll definitely be [protesting] until they leave,” Abulhawa said. 

Whether or not protests will continue when the symphony orchestra returns home hasn’t been decided, she added.

The orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will tour Europe and Israel from May 24 through June 5.

An orchestra spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.