Some 171 Swedish artists and celebrities have signed an open letter urging for the boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest which is scheduled to be held in Israel next month.
“We, Swedish artists and cultural workers who have signed this call, cannot quietly watch Israel use the Eurovision Song Contest to conceal their crimes against the Palestinian people”, the appeal published in the Aftonbladet newspaper said.
“Just a few days after the Israeli victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2018, Israel’s army killed 62 Palestinians who protested against their prison-like imprisonment in Gaza. Six of those murdered were children.”
“At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his delight that Netta Barzilai, the winning singer, was the best ambassador for Israel in the world.”
As long as Israel, with its apartheid policy, denies the Palestinians their basic human rights, we must renounce all participation in Israeli cultural exchanges.
Kajsa Ekis Ekman, a journalist who took part in the 2015 Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, the Israeli-born musician Dror Feiler, who also took part in Freedom Flotilla, and Green Party founder Per Gahrton are among the signatories.
This year’s Eurovision has come under intense scrutiny in the year after Barzilai won the 2018 competition, meaning this year’s contest is slated to be held in Israel. A number of high profile figures and organisations have called for a boycott of the competition in line with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for a boycott of Israeli cultural output that normalises the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
In January, over 60 international NGOs called for a boycott of Eurovision, writing in an open letter published by a Portuguese newspaper that “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.”
The move echoed a sentiment expressed earlier that week by 50 influential cultural figures who urged the BBC to boycott Eurovision. In a letter published by the Guardian, the artists wrote: “In May, the BBC intends to screen Eurovision 2019 from Israel. Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.” Among the letter’s signatories were fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, musician Roger Waters and actress Miriam Margolyes.
There are signs that BDS pressure is starting to bear fruit, with Israel announcing in September that it would host the competition final in Tel Aviv as opposed to Jerusalem, as it had originally planned. Although EBU’s Executive Supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest, Ola Sand, said in a statement that Tel Aviv was chosen to host the contest because of its “creative and compelling bid,” fear of a widespread boycott and demonstrations were likely a motivating factor.