Open letter to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO)

The Canadian BDS Coalition has the following open letter signed by over 20 Canadian organizations to the directors of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) asking them to reconsider the TSO’s participation in two upcoming concerts in Israel.

You can take action to call on the TSO to respect the Palestinian call for cultural boycott by cancelling its planned shows in Israel.

April 29, 2017

Dear Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) Directors, Conductors and Musicians,

We write to you today to ask that you 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, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and justice for the refugees.

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. More than 6 million Palestinian refugees are denied their rights. This state of affairs is not only unjust; it is unsustainable.

Israel instrumentalizes 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. This visit by the world-renowned TSO will be paraded as an endorsement of Israel’s actions.

In the UK, over 1,200 artists – including Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Richard Ashcroft and others – have signed an Artists’ Pledge, declaring: “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.”

In February of this year, 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.”

We would ask you to reflect on these matters and consider how you might respond.

For further information on the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, visit

Respectfully signed by the following organizations across Canada:

Independent Jewish Voices-Canada
Christian Peacemaker Teams-Ontario
United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel
Canada Palestine Association
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
Justice for Palestinians, Calgary
BDS Action, Calgary
Palestinian Solidarity Network-Edmonton
Palestine House, Mississauga
Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation
Beit Zatoun Art and Cultural Centre
Solidarity with Palestine, St. John’s
Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario
Palestinian and Jewish Unity, Montreal
BDS Quebec Coalition
Canadians Against Israeli Apartheid, Victoria
Palestinian Solidarity Working Group, Sudbury
People for Peace, London
United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel-Toronto Chapter
Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP), Nova Scotia

Copied to:

Gary Hanson, Interim Chief Executive Officer
Roberta Smith, Vice-President & Chief of Staff
Adrian Fung, Vice-President, Innovation
Shawn Boyle, Director, External Relations
Loie Fallis, Vice-President, Artistic Planning
Ziyad Mansour, Chief Financial Officer
David Postill, Vice-President, Marketing
Chris Beard, Director of Brand & Communications
Kendal Egli, Director of Marketing & Sales
Sarah Bullick, Acting Vice-President, Development
Catherine Beck, Chair, Board of Directors

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