Don’t let the Eurovision boycotters win

Vote for Israel – and beat the BDS bigots.

Daniel Ben-Ami

Topics Culture Politics World

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For most people, the Eurovision Song Contest is a harmless bit of fun. But for Israel, it has become deadly serious. It is the latest front in an international campaign that wants to turn Israel into a pariah state.

This year, the international Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has demanded a boycott of Eurovision on the spurious grounds that Israel’s participation is whitewashing a ‘genocide’. The truth is that Israel is the anti-genocidal force fighting against an enemy, Hamas, that has pledged time and again to destroy the Jewish State. Innocent Palestinians have tragically been caught up in the conflict, and cynically used as human shields by Hamas.

Unfortunately, if a lie is repeated often enough, those so inclined will start to believe it. As a result, the genocide libel has now prompted many to join in the boycott campaign. In Malmö, the Swedish city hosting Eurovision this year, many thousands have been protesting against Israel’s participation.

This has led to Eden Golan, the Israeli contestant, being booed during rehearsals for the competition. A journalist then asked her how she felt about her presence bringing ‘risk and danger for other participants and [the] public’. This is an inversion of reality. Thanks to the fiercely anti-Israel sentiment the boycott campaign has unleashed, she now faces a serious and credible threat of violence. On her journey to the Eurovision venue, she had to be accompanied by over 100 police officers and a police helicopter.

The protests extend beyond Sweden. In London, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has decided to close today rather than hold its annual Eurovision party. The Rio Cinema in Dalston also announced it would halt its screening as long as Israel remains in the competition.

Perhaps most disconcertingly, those who have supported Israel’s right to participate in the past have largely remained silent this time around, or have been ignored. In 2019, Stephen Fry and other celebrities penned a letter denouncing a proposed boycott of Israel but there is no sign of a similar initiative this year. Nick Cave has said he opposes banishing Israel from the competition but his call has received little attention.

Thankfully, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, has resisted calls to ban Israel. However, it did force Israel to change the words of its song on the grounds that it was ‘political’. The original song was entitled ‘October Rain’, and was a moving lament for those murdered by Hamas last year. It has since been renamed ‘Hurricane’ and the lyrics have been rewritten.

Complaints that ‘October Rain’ was too political might have held a bit more water if Eurovision didn’t have a history of including political songs. A Greek entry in 1976 criticised Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus. Switzerland entered an anti-war song in 2023 in opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This year, the Dutch entry, ‘Europapa’, is a celebration of open borders within the European Union.

Some may be tempted to dismiss the efforts to banish Israel from Eurovision as trivial. It’s just a singing competition, they might say. But this boycott needs to be seen in the broader context of the BDS movement. Launched in 2005, its goal is to delegitimise and culturally isolate Israel. It targets academia, musical events, sport, theatre, visual arts and much more. In every case the goal is to purge all spheres of public life of Israeli involvement. So not only is BDS deeply intolerant of all things Israeli, it is also a movement against freedom of expression. Individual Israeli performers and competitors are targeted simply because of their national background.

The targets of the Israel boycotters range from big corporations and brands, such as Barclays and Zara, to iconic global events, such as the Olympics and of course Eurovision itself. The current anti-Israel student protests are part of the boycott-Israel movement, too. Their chief objective is to force universities to break all links with Israel.

For anyone with an understanding of anti-Semitism, this pervasive boycott campaign is driven by an all too familiar sentiment. Its main objective is to target, isolate and exclude Jews from wider society. They may not want to slaughter Jews, as Hamas explicitly says it wants to. But the boycotters would certainly like to erase all traces of the Jewish State from public life.

So while it might seem like a small thing, voting for Israel in Eurovision would be a great way of sticking two fingers up to those determined to turn Israel into a pariah state. We need to do all we can to resist this campaign to wipe Israel off the map.

Daniel Ben-Ami is an author and journalist. He runs the website Radicalism of Fools, dedicated to rethinking anti-Semitism. Follow him on Twitter: @danielbenami

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Culture Politics World


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