BBC Proms: Cancel Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Invitation

Out of Tune with Human Rights

BBC Proms: Cancel Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Invitation

We, Palestinian cultural institutions, including the leading musical organizations, urge the BBC to cancel the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) concert at this year’s Proms [1], due to IPO’s complicity in whitewashing Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights. The IPO is scheduled to perform in September in London. Should the BBC fail to cancel this ill-conceived concert, we urge all people of conscience in the UK and especially those who stand for justice, freedom, equality and human rights to effectively protest this event, including by promoting a wide boycott of it, and by tapping into the impressive creative energies British supporters of Palestinian rights have always shown.

The IPO is one of the flagship institutions of the Israeli state, tracing its history to the 1930″s under the British Mandate. The IPO Foundation describes the orchestra as “Israel”s musical ambassador,” [2] while the American Friends of the IPO has this to say about it:

Often said to have more heart than other orchestras, the IPO is Israel”s finest cultural emissary and travels throughout the world, particularly to countries where there is little or no Israeli representation. In some cases, performances of the IPO are the only example of Israel”s existence. The goodwill created by these tours, which have included historic visits to Japan, Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Russia, China and India, is of enormous value to the State of Israel. As a result, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra maintains its position at the forefront of cultural diplomacy and the international music scene. [3]

As befits an institution that identifies with the Israeli state and openly serves Israel’s interests, despite its occupation and apartheid and decades-old denial of Palestinian rights, the IPO proudly announces its partnership with the army under a scheme whereby special concerts for Israeli soldiers are organized at their army outposts [4].

In this way, the orchestra has lent itself to the official Israeli propaganda campaign titled Brand Israel, which aims to divert attention from Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights to its artistic and scientific achievements. [5]

Moreover, during the 1948 Nakba, the IPO made it a mission to entertain Israeli soldiers [6] who were busy ethnically cleansing Palestinians, committing massacres and systematically demolishing hundreds of Palestinian villages to prevent the refugees’ return. The IPO also entertained Israeli troops in 1967 [7], right after Israel’s war of aggression against the Palestinians and Arab states and its occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

Given the orchestra”s strong association with the Israeli state and other Zionist organizations involved in “brand-Israel” activities [8], we call upon all Palestine solidarity activists in the United Kingdom to organize activities to protest and boycott the orchestra”s concerts. As long as it continues to partner with the state in whitewashing war crimes and international law violations, the Israeli cultural establishment cannot expect to be exempted from the growing boycott movement.

This appeal is made within the framework of the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) [9], and the call for the boycott of all Israeli academic and cultural institutions issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [10], and in accordance with the guidelines for the cultural boycott of Israel [11], which an overwhelming majority of Palestinian cultural and artistic institutions have endorsed.

We believe that the time has come to apply pressure on Israel in the form of boycotts, divestment initiatives and sanctions, as was done successfully in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Israel must not be allowed to flout international law and precepts of international humanitarian law with impunity. Israel’s cultural ambassadors play a pivotal role in covering up Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people; they must be held accountable for their shameless complicity.


– Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
– General Union for Palestinian Writers
– Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
– Al Kamandjati Association
– The Palestinian House of Poetry
– Yabous Cultural Center, Jerusalem
– Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Centre
– The Popular Art Centre
– The Palestinian Forum for Culture and Media – Paris
– Sanabel Theater – Jerusalem
– Theatre Day Productions
– World Association of Writers – Palestine center
– Al-Harah Theater
– Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA)
– Al-Kasaba Theatre and Cinemateque

[3]; emphasis added.
[5] For more on the Brand Israel campaign, see:
[8] One such organization is the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, whose mission includes “[d]epict[ing] the State of Israel as a thriving cultural environment that stimulates creativity and artistic life.” See . The organization takes credit for having supported and promoted all major cultural institutions in Israel, such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Museum. See:

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