People across Europe are taking action in response to the Palestinian call to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest being hosted next week in Tel Aviv.
London Palestine Action and Queers for Justice in Palestine on Friday released a catchy spoof of the Village People’s “YMCA” to urge broadcaster Graham Norton to drop out as the BBC’s Eurovision host.
“Stand up for justice, say Yes, BDS!” the activists sing, urging support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Watch the video above.
Meanwhile, two LGBTQ organizations have canceled Eurovision parties in response to the Palestinian call not to allow Israel to use the event to obscure its human rights crimes.
Barcelona’s El Casal Lambda – established in 1976 as the Franco dictatorship ended – said it had canceled its viewing party next Saturday, citing its “long and extensive experience defending human rights.”
Copenhagen’s LGBT+ Ungdom center also canceled a Eurovision party and is organizing an alternative event.
The youth organization said members decided they could not go ahead with the original event because of Eurovision’s use of pinkwashing.
Pinkwashing is the public relations strategy that deploys Tel Aviv’s gay party culture and Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Pinkwashing is typically aimed at Western liberal audiences.
On Friday, more than 100 French artists denounced holding Eurovision in Tel Aviv, citing Israel’s crimes, including the deliberate destruction last year of Gaza’s main performance and arts venue, the Said al-Mishal Cultural Center.
“We call on France Television and the French delegation not to bail out a regime that sends snipers every Friday against unarmed children in the Great March of Return in Gaza,” the artists stated.
“Self-respecting entertainment would not play in the land of apartheid. We would not have accepted it in South Africa and we don’t accept it for Israel.”
The noted French comics artist Tardi made this cartoon to emphasize the point:
In a similar spirit, dozens of veterans of the Irish solidarity movement against apartheid in South Africa amplified calls on Ireland’s contestant, Sarah McTernan, to pull out of Eurovision.
“As with apartheid South Africa’s promotion of the ‘Sun City’ resort as an entertainment venue, it is simply not possible to view the Eurovision being held in Tel Aviv as merely an apolitical cultural event,” their letter in The Irish Times states.
“We ask Sarah McTernan to listen to the call from the Palestinian people to do no harm, to not cross their picket line.”
Former Irish TV Eurovision host Mike Murphy recorded this video announcing his support for the boycott:
And on Tuesday, activists in Geneva delivered a 136,000-signature petition against holding Eurovision in Tel Aviv to the headquarters of the European Broadcasting Union, the body that organizes the contest:
Israeli leaders will no doubt be congratulating themselves that with only days before the start of the contest, no performers have announced a pullout.
However, Klemens Hannigan and Matthias Haraldsson, the front men for Iceland’s contestant Hatari, said that they were “conflicted” about being in Tel Aviv, and had visited the occupied West Bank city of Hebron last week.
“The political reality is really conflicting, and absurd, and the apartheid was so clear in Hebron,” Haraldsson told an interviewer.
Israeli officials had earlier reportedly considered barring entry to Hatari over the group’s support for Palestinian rights.
Yet Hannigan said the musicians still planned to play in Tel Aviv – defying a direct Palestinian appeal – because “hopefully we will make awareness to the world through Eurovision.”
But by other measures, Eurovision is already a massive failure for Israel.
The expected flood of tourists Israel hoped would come to Tel Aviv failed to materialize, and hotel and airline prices have plummeted.
With thousands of tickets for the Eurovision concerts still unsold, organizers are now giving seats away to residents of Israeli communities surrounding the besieged Gaza Strip.
A key message of Israel’s propaganda is to present the country as fun, uncontroversial and “normal,” and as a desirable destination for tourism and cultural events.
Instead, much of the international media coverage has focused on the Palestinian boycott call, especially in light of Israel’s most recent lethal bombing campaign in Gaza, and has therefore helped raise public awareness of Israel’s abuses.
This has forced Israel onto the defensive, announcing that it would ban European human rights activists from entering the country in a further effort to muzzle protest and dissent.
Israel has also launched a glossy ad campaign in an effort to counter the calls for boycott.
Public broadcaster Kan, which is producing the Tel Aviv Eurovision, launched this supposedly lighthearted video in a last-ditch effort to attract tourists:
But PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, slammed the video as desperate propaganda that “falsely claims occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem as part of Israel and contains anti-Semitic and misogynistic content.”
For instance, the Kan video contains a line echoing classic anti-Semitism that “most of us are Jews but only some of us are greedy.”
Eurovision semi-finals begin on 14 May and the grand finale is on 18 May.
Last year on 14 May, Israel perpetrated a massacre of some 60 unarmed Palestinian civilians protesting the siege of the occupied Gaza Strip and demanding their right to return to the familial lands Israel expelled them from for not being Jewish.
On 15 May, Palestinians will be marking the 71st anniversary of the Nakba – the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine in order to create Israel.
As they do so, Palestinians are determined not to allow Eurovision to be used to cover up Israel’s past and present crimes – even when Eurovision celebrations are being held directly over the ruins of their communities.