The broadcasting companies have refused to heed the call. The contestants from 42 countries have ignored the petitions. Madonna is flying in. Millions around the world have been made aware for the first time that all is not well in the Holy Land if you’re a Palestinian. But despite the global campaign, the final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s largest live music event, is going ahead in Tel Aviv this Saturday (18 May).
So now it’s down to ordinary TV viewers to show our disapproval and solidarity by making sure there’s a big dent in the show’s normal global audience figures of 189 million.
Despite what some have said, opposition to Eurovision 2019 is not about ‘antisemitism’ or ‘hating’ Israel or ‘destroying’ the only Jewish State in the world. Boycotting Eurovision is about singing a different kind of love song. A love song that does precisely what this year’s competition slogan encourages us to do: ‘Dare to Dream’. Not the glitzy dream of sparkly costumes and on-stage pyrotechnics but a dream of freedom and safety for all who call the Holy Land home.
If you haven’t already made up your mind, here are three reasons to dream big and tune-out of Eurovision. Share this with any fans of the show who may still be wondering what all the fuss is about.
The people themselves have asked us to boycott
Since 1973 Israel has taken part in Eurovision 41 times and won the contest four times. It’s hosted the event twice before in 1979 and 1999, both times in Jerusalem. What’s different this time is the existence of the Palestinian led Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
A people who’ve been dispossessed and exiled and continue to face daily discrimination in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as within Israel itself, now have a strategy for creating a peaceful global solidarity movement. They have asked the organisers, the participants and the fans of Eurovision not to cross their ‘picket line’ for human rights.
As the official BDS statement on Eurovision says
“Inspired by conscientious artists who shunned Sun City in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, Palestinian artists and cultural organizations have called for nonviolent pressure in the form of boycotts on Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law…Holding Eurovision 2019 in Israel whitewashes apartheid.”
The most recent call to support the boycott has come from artists in Gaza who’ve drawn attention to the last year of protests along the Gaza fence.
“According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 270 Palestinian protesters have been killed and 17,021 injured over the last year, with over 6,000 shot in the legs. These included medics in lab coats, clearly marked press, disabled in wheelchairs and many children. We should not have to go through any more to hope for your solidarity with us.”
Despite some international criticism of the way Israel has responded to the Gaza demonstrations, nothing has actually changed. The killing and maiming goes on unchecked. The diplomatic bias remains in place and has worsened considerably under President Donald Trump. Boycotting looks like a very restrained and moderate response, all things considered.
In a powerful opinion piece for the Guardian last week, Arwa Mahdawi reflected on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza after 12 years of blockade. She notes how mainstream journalism is skewed against Gaza. While reports of the latest escalation spoke of four Israelis “killed” by Hamas rockets, the same newspapers described how 24 Palestinians had “died” following Israeli bombing. Meanwhile, politicians present boycotts as a form of terrorism.
“The only acceptable thing you can do as a Palestinian, it would seem, is just shut up and die. And, for God’s sake, do not protest against Eurovision!”
So let’s listen to the calls made by those on the receiving end of oppression. They have the right to protest for their freedom. While they are being tear-gassed and shot at by Israeli snipers, we are being politely asked to switch TV channels. It’s not a big ask. There is a great deal more at stake here than a song contest.
Eurovision doesn’t promote peace
Remember, Eurovision doesn’t promote peace, it promotes tourism. Every host country turns the show into an epic commercial for your next holiday destination.
But there are some parts of its territory that Israel won’t want to show you because this is a four-hour live television event designed to distract you from the truth.
Let’s take a couple of examples from this week’s news about places you won’t see on Saturday.
You won’t see the 406 dunams of land which will soon be seized from the West Bank Palestinian towns of Burin, Hawara, Beita, Awarta, Yasuf, Yatama and Al-Sawiyah for the Hawara bypass. Nor the additional 401 dunams from Beit Ummar’s and Halahul’s area for the Al-Aroub bypass. These will be roads for Israelis only, linking illegal Settlements and bypassing the Palestinian villages. This is land being stolen from Palestinians, eating away at any future Palestinian State and slowly but surely destroying any long-term chance of a just peace.
Neither will the interludes between performances show you the rapid escalation of Palestinian home demolitions taking place in East Jerusalem in the last few weeks.
As Israel works to Judaise the ‘eternal capital of the Jewish people’ more than a 100 homes have been destroyed. That’s already more than the total for 2018. But Palestinian who lost their homes and livelihoods don’t make for attractive television.
Some artists and celebrities still don’t get it. A few have backed a call to boycott the boycott. Stephen Fry and Sharon Osbourne are among a 100 signatories to a letter from the Creative Community for Peace.
“We believe that unifying events, such as singing competitions, are crucial to help bridge our cultural divides and bring people of all backgrounds together through their shared love of music.The annual Eurovision Song Contest embodies this unifying power.”
But since when was the situation in Israel/Palestine a “cultural divide”? Since when was any of this merely a failure of getting together and sharing musical interests? The story of Israel/Palestine is not one of ‘them and us’, it’s a story of occupiers and occupied. It’s the story of those who have rights and those who don’t.
The naivety gets worse.
“We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.”
Is it any wonder that I couldn’t find a single Palestinian name on the letter? Isn’t this letter an affront to the vast majority of Palestinians who support BDS? And since neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas are members of the European Broadcasting Union, no Palestinian performers are taking part. So how is the contest making any contribution to “advancing peace”?
Eurovision adds to the ‘normalisation’ of the Israeli occupation and the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people. Don’t watch the musical travelogue. It’s fake.
Thankfully, there’s an alternative
You don’t need to go without your music fix this Saturday. Globalvision is an alternative online music event that will celebrate Palestinian musical talent from around the world alongside other musicians in solidarity. And as the organisers of Globalvision are saying “This year make your Eurovision party stand for something bigger”. We are promised glam and glitter but also diversity and inclusion and a committment to human rights for all.
The boycott Eurovision 2019 campaign may not have stopped the event from going ahead but it has succeeded in mobilisation a whole new generation of supporters and showcasing the creative talents of a marginalised people.
Now it’s down to all of us to make this campaign count. So dare to dream of freedom. Sing a different kind of love song. Drop out of Eurovision. Tune in to Globalvision.