Can Israel be stopped from winning Eurovision?

Israeli Eurovision contestant Netta Barzilai in her military uniform. (via Facebook)

“Netanyahu and his ministers and generals would like nothing better than for Netta Barzilai to win the Eurovision contest,” according to Israeli activists who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

And that prize is within reach, with the Israeli entrant heavily favored to take the top spot.

It would certainly be a feather in the cap of the Brand Israel campaign, which aims to use sports, culture and technology to burnish Israel’s image and whitewash its crimes against Palestinians.

And it would mean that next year’s contest is staged in Israel before a television audience that can exceed 200 million.

Israel gets to take part because it is a member of the European Broadcasting Union, which sponsors the contest.

The 2018 Eurovision Song Contest begins in Lisbon tonight, Tuesday, continuing on Thursday and culminating in the grand finale on Saturday.

Viewers get to vote in the semi-finals and finals.

The activist group Boycott From Within is urging viewers to take action against Israel’s use of the contest to further its propaganda, calling its campaign “Zero Points to Israel.”

“If you live in one of the participating countries, take care to participate in the televoting and give Israeli apartheid ZERO POINTS – and ask your friends and family and anyone you know to do the same,” Boycott From Within urges. “If the Israeli song is eliminated already at the semi-finals – well and good, nothing further should be done.”

The group notes that the Israeli contestant Netta Barzilai “will participate in representation of the Israeli state, as such she is part of the efforts to ‘rebrand’ Israel internationally.”

They state that Barzilai “served in the Israeli navy in 2014” and “sang ‘My Sailor is My Angel’ to navy members, who took part later that year in the Operation Protective Edge massacre in Gaza.”

The victims of that massacre included the four Baker boys who were killed by shells fired by the Israeli navy as they played on a Gaza City beach.

Israel’s navy continues to enforce the maritime blockade of Gaza, often attacking, injuring and killing Gaza fishers.

“Israel’s Eurovision entry called ‘Toy,’ which is all about women’s empowerment and social justice, does not address the Israeli navy’s massacres in Gaza,” Boycott From Within states. “Nor does it seek to empower the women of the Gaza open-air prison.”

While activists will hope for a strong response, the Israeli song has received a lot of support and publicity – the European Union embassy in Tel Aviv has been an enthusiastic booster.

“The Israeli song is widely promoted on the net, in a massive propaganda campaign very generously funded by the Israeli government,” Boycott from Within states.

But the group’s campaign is causing worry in Israeli media.

“The Eurovision’s scoring system is based on an equal number of points awarded by judges and the contest’s viewers from across the continent and participating countries,” Ynet reported. “The BDS campaign’s efforts may thus prove successful in significantly hampering the Israeli’s chances of winning – or even making it to the final.”

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I saw the programme last night and was amazed at the amount of times the Israeli flag featured when other countries' songs were being performed; the size of the Israeli flags compared to others and at one point there was an axe with a star of David on it being waved about. It really looked as if someone had secured a very good amount of product placement for Israel.

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Australia isn't in Europe either but they are part of the contest. Try a simple search and you will find the requirements. And here is a hint, being in Europe isn't required.

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Israel has clearly been emboldened in its response to the March of Return, and objections to the US embassy moving to Jerusalem, by its win in the Eurovision song contest.

There is no option to give null points to any particular song. To achieve the desired result, one has to direct all anti-apartheid votes in favour of one of the other favourites: Germany, Austria or Cyprus.

Taking a positive spin, there's no an opportunity to organise a boycott of the event in Jerusalem next year, or to organise a rival contest.

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