Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

Eurovision has shown us BDS reaches Israeli psyche

People take their seats as the Eurovision song contest begins in Duesseldorf, Germany on 14 May 2011 [Noel Slevin/Flickr]
People take their seats as the Eurovision song contest begins in Duesseldorf, Germany on 14 May 2011 [Noel Slevin/Flickr]

A long-standing question from Eurovision viewers has been, how come Israeli musicians take part in the competition when it is not even in Europe?

Well, fact fans, here’s the answer: Israel’s public broadcaster was long part of the European Broadcasting Union, membership of which is the entry qualification for the rather naff pop music contest.

That’s the technical answer, but the more fundamental reason is this: Israel is a European settler colony forcibly implanted in the heart of the Arab world. As such, it is essentially a European project.

Read: This secretive report exposes the vacuum at the heart of Israel’s war against BDS

Much like Australia (which also now competes in Eurovision) Israel is a colonial entity which violently displaced its indigenous population in order to found a white supremacist settlement overseas.

Probably the most apt parallel is with the settler colonial regime that founded South Africa. Like Israel, white South Africa forcibly displaced the indigenous population in order to make a new settler nation.

Israelis most often identify with white European ‘civilization,’ in opposition to the so-called ‘jungle’ that the Arab region is delegitimised as and which the usurped nation of Palestine firmly belongs to. This is despite the fact that more than half of Israeli Jews are of Arab Jewish (aka Mizrahi) origins, leading to some disturbing contradictions.

Eli Yishai, then a minister in the Israeli government and part of a right-wing religious Zionist party, once claimed that “this country belongs to us, to the white man”.

The line would be despicable, no matter who said it but the irony was that Yishai was not “us… the white man”. He is a Mizrahi Jew, born to parents from Tunisia. It’s yet another one of the movement’s crimes that Zionism has led so many Mizrahim to become self-hating Arabs.

Yishai’s statement was rather emblematic of the contradiction at the heart of the very idea of Israel: wanting to be part of the Middle East while being fundamentally opposed to its very essence.

Read: BBC smears BDS, fails to disclose interviewee’s Israel advocacy role

Yishai’s statement was rather emblematic of the contradiction at the heart of the very idea of Israel: wanting to be part of the Middle East while being fundamentally opposed to its very essence.

Israel’s status in the Arab world is very much in question. A settler colonial regime whose existence is predicated on the violent displacement of the indigenous population will never be viewed favourably or in any way accepted.

Image of Eli Yishai delivering a speech on 26 November 2014 [Sapir College/Wikipedia]

For this reason, campaigns of solidarity with the Palestinian people seem only likely to grow. Of these campaigns, the main focus for the last several years has been BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. B, D and S are the three letters that terrify Israeli war criminals in a way not seen since the PLO was still a vital force in the Palestinian body politic (as opposed to the empty shell existing on paper only that it is now).

Yoav Tzafir, the director of Israel’s delegation to the Eurovision song contest, said that there was “no doubt” that BDS was a factor in their failure earlier in May. The Israeli entry placed 23rd out of 26 songs in the final competition.

According to the Israeli settler news site Arutz Sheva, Tzafir blamed BDS for his team’s failure, saying “BDS is very strong in Europe, and tries hard to influence – so that they won’t vote for us, so that they will give us zero points”.

I listened to the song itself and can confirm it is terrible by any objective measure, so it’s possible that Tzafir is simply blaming BDS as a convenient scapegoat and that they lost so badly because it was simply a bad song. There was a BDS campaign targeting Eurovision, but it did not seem to gain much traction. A Facebook group calling for the “Eurovision boycott of Israel – Zero points to the song of Israeli apartheid” has only 362 likes.

On the other hand, Eurovision songs seem to be dire as a matter of course, so lack of quality is no bar to winning. Perhaps there was something in Tzafir’s allegations after all.

In any case, the fact that BDS was even raised as a reason for the loss is a sign of how far the movement has succeeded in reaching the Israeli psyche these days.

Israel will only climb down from the precipice it has walked itself out onto when compelled to do so by outside pressure. Power concedes nothing without demands. Since Western governments have refused to take action to prevent Israel’s crimes (indeed, they often encourage them), it is up to us to create popular forms of pressure: BDS is the main route to do so.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Categories
ArticleBDSEurope & RussiaInquiryInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine