Eurovision winner shuns Palestinian activists, claiming a boycott will ‘spread darkness’

A photo of Netta Barzilai and an image of the Eurovision 2019 logo

Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest winner has asked people not to boycott the event.

Netta Barzilai, who won the contest last year, said the event is a “festival of light”. But activists have called on people to boycott the event which is due to take place in Tel Aviv in May. They have argued that Israel is using Eurovision to cover up its abuse of Palestinian people’s rights.

Spreading light?

Barzilai argued that people calling for a boycott are “spreading darkness”. She also claimed that they “might be going against their own beliefs” as a result. However, she pointed out that she would perform for Palestinian people if they asked her, saying:

I wasn’t invited, but if my singing could solve problems, I would go.

But in spite of this, she avoided delving too far into politics, stressing:

When I will say my political opinion, I will bring hearts apart instead of bringing them together

Criticising the boycott

Barzilai is not alone in criticising the calls for a boycott. A number of celebrities, for example, have signed a letter in support of holding Eurovision in Israel. Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) published the letter which declared “music is our shared language”. Therefore, the authors argued:

Read on...

the spirit of togetherness is under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.

Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Rachel Riley, and Rory Cowan are among the signatories. Cowan, an Irish actor, has previously spoken at an event hosted by the Israeli embassy in Dublin, saying “I stand with Israel”. At the same event, he also accused activists of using boycotts “as a sledgehammer against Israel”. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) described Cowan as “a well known propagandist for Israel’s apartheid regime”.

The CCFP is a front for Israeli lobby group StandWithUs, and activists have pointed out the latter’s “close ties to the Israeli government”.

Supporting the boycott

A number of celebrities and organisations, however, support a Eurovision boycott. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, for example, has said that artists who perform in Israel:

normalise the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters.

A number of Irish LGBTQ+ activists have also called on Ireland’s Eurovision entry to boycott the competition. The signers, including two members of the Irish senate, said that Israel is using Eurovision to:

make its record on gay rights trump its continued occupation and brutalization of the Palestinian people.

Last year, meanwhile, over a hundred artists wrote a letter to the Guardian saying that “there should be no business-as-usual” with Israel as long as discrimination against the Palestinian people continues. They went further, insisting that:

Eurovision 2019 should be boycotted if it is hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights.

Fearing the boycott

The Israeli state does appear to fear the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Recently, it has lobbied the Irish government and Irish politicians to block legislation that would ban trade with illegal Israeli settlements. And it is now using celebrities to try and undermine the calls for a Eurovision boycott.

Israel is trying to use the Eurovision contest to convince the world that it’s a liberal state – a haven of equality. But given the recent victory of the extreme right in the Israeli general elections, the state will find it increasingly difficult to hide its treatment of the Palestinian people.

Stepping up our support for the Palestinian people is more important than ever. And that’s why boycotting the Eurovision contest matters.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Dewayne Barkley/ Wikimedia Commons – MateuszFret1998

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. It must have taken a remarkable feat of ethical gymnastics for Stephen Fry to have signed up to this sickeningly specious letter, given how passionately he previously argued for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics

      From my own limited experience, I was a child of Apartheid South Africa, and while I wouldn’t attribute an undue role to the international cultural boycott in helping to end apartheid, and I certainly felt that denying South African artists opportunities to collaborate outside the cultural straitjacket that apartheid had placed upon them was counterproductive, South Africa was no place for an international knees-up then, and Israel is no place for one now. Eurovision 2019 will happen and the spectacle will be stomach-churning.

      You don’t have to be fundamentalist or absolutist or isolationist to see the value of boycotting events such as this.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.