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60 human rights groups back international call to boycott Eurovision in Israel

January 31, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Netta Barzilai, Israeli singer who won Eurovision Song Contest 2018 [Eurovisong/Facebook]

Over 60 international NGO’s have added their voices in protest against the plan to hold the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv this year. They are now part of what is quickly becoming an international campaign by civil society groups seeking to move the event, which is scheduled for May, from Israel.

Earlier this week 50 artists urged the BBC to boycott the Eurovision citing “Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights”. They said that the BBC was not exempt from human rights consideration and cannot ignore the plight of the Palestinians.

The BBC declined saying that it was not appropriate for individuals to politicise the corporation’s participation in the event, arguing that Eurovision was not a political event. Israel’s critics dismissed the BBC’s justification insisting that the Zionist state regularly uses cultural events such as the Eurovision to make a political statement.

UK: 50 artists urge BBC to boycott Eurovision in Israel

The artists noted that Israel had insisted on hosting the contest in Jerusalem however the European Broadcasting Union chose Tel Aviv as the venue over the occupied city of Jerusalem. “But this does nothing to protect Palestinians from land theft, evictions, shootings, beatings and more by Israel’s security forces,” they said.

They have now been joined by several Portuguese organisations that are among more than 60 groups from various countries issuing a call to boycott the contest if it takes place in Israel as planned. In an open letter published in a Portuguese newspaper, the civil society groups said “as with the fight against apartheid in South Africa, it is only through effective and sustained international pressure that Israel will be compelled to fulfil its obligations under international law and respect the human rights of the Palestinians.”

“We join the growing appeals from around the world,” the letter signed by organisations from countries including Germany, France, the US, Belgium and Honduras said. They called for the event to be boycotted “as long as Israel is the host.”

UK band boycotts Eurovision to be held in Israel

The international group said that they were responding to the Palestinian call to not allow Israel to use the cultural events to whitewash its many crimes.  They explained that in June last year, several Palestinian cultural organisations called for a boycott of the competition, stressing that “the Israeli regime of military occupation, colonialism and apartheid is blatantly using Eurovision as part of its official strategy ‘Brand Israel’, which tries to show ‘the most beautiful face of Israel’ to whiten and divert attention from its war crimes against the Palestinians.”

Irish celebrities and human rights groups were amongst the first to back the Palestinians in their effort and called for a campaign to deny Israel a chance to hide its crimes behind a global cultural event. In October the Irish Campaign to Boycott the Eurovision in Israel 2019 secured the support of 20 public figures, including actor Stephen Rea, and musical artists Mary Coughlan.

British band, The Tuts, also withdrew from the contest citing Israel’s hosting of the event.