Palestinian artists call for Eurovision 2019 boycott

Israel’s Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai at a celebratory concert hosted by Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai on 14 May, the day Israel killed dozens of Palestinians in Gaza. Barzilai told the crowd: “We have a reason to be happy.” (via Facebook)

Palestinian artists and broadcast journalists are urging a boycott of next year’s Eurovision Song Contest if it is hosted by Israel.

“Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is shamelessly using Eurovision as part of its official Brand Israel strategy, which tries to show ‘Israel’s prettier face’ to whitewash and distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians,” they say in an open letter published on Tuesday.

The call comes amid mounting horror around the world at Israel’s weekly massacres of Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return rallies in Gaza.

Since 30 March, Israeli snipers have killed more than 100 unarmed civilians in Gaza, including 15 children, two journalists and two medics.

Thousands more have been shot with live ammunition, creating an unprecedented medical crisis in the already threadbare health system of the besieged territory.

On 14 May alone, just two days after its Eurovision win in Lisbon, Israel fatally wounded more than 60 Palestinians in a single day.

“That same evening, Netta Barzilai, Israel’s representative at Eurovision 2018, performed a celebratory concert in Tel Aviv, hosted by the mayor, stating, ‘We have a reason to be happy,’” the letter notes.

Barzilai has also posed with Israeli leaders responsible for violence or incitement against Palestinians, including culture minister Miri Regev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the singer Israel’s “best ambassador.”

Israel’s brazen efforts to use next year’s Eurovision to push its claim to Jerusalem apparently caused disquiet at the European Broadcasting Union, the international organization that produces the competition.

Last month Eurovision organizers surprised observers by telling fans not to book their flights for Israel just yet, urging them to wait for official announcements “on where and when it’ll take place.”

Apparently fearing that Israel might lose the opportunity to host it altogether, the Netanyahu government this week dropped its insistence that Eurovision 2019 only be held in Jerusalem and said it could take place in Tel Aviv or another city instead.

Israel may have been chastened by Argentina’s cancellation of its planned “friendly” football match against Israel last week, a huge blow to its international propaganda efforts.

But in the open letter, Palestinians take an unambiguous position: “regardless whether held in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or anywhere else under the control of Israel’s apartheid regime, this contest must be boycotted to avoid complicity and business-as-usual with this regime and to avoid irreversibly tarnishing the Eurovision brand with Israel’s egregious human rights record.”

The open letter is signed by 20 well-known Palestinian civic organizations including the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, the Palestinian National Theatre, Jenin’s Freedom Theater, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Even before the Palestinian call, support for a Eurovision boycott has been growing across Europe.

In Ireland, Dublin mayor Mícheál Mac Donncha, 1994 Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan and singer and senator Frances Black have all expressed support for a boycott if Israel hosts the contest.

There have been similar calls from the UK, Sweden, Malta, Australia and Spain, the letter notes.

More than 26,000 people have signed a petition urging Iceland to observe a boycott – equivalent to more than seven percent of that country’s population.