Middle East

Celebrities, activists call for Eurovision to be moved from Israel

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"Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations," 50 British celebrities and creative figures said in an open letter.

British celebrities including fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actresses Julie Christie and Maxine Peake, and singer Peter Gabriel have pledged their support for Eurovision to be relocated, as Tel Aviv gears up to host this year's event.

They are among 50 signatories of a letter to the Guardian calling on the BBC, the UK broadcasters of the event, to "press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed."

"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," the letter reads.

Vivienne Westwood is one of 50 British celebrities calling for Eurovision 2019 to relocate.
Vivienne Westwood is one of 50 British celebrities calling for Eurovision 2019 to relocate.
Getty Images

It echoes a call by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to pressure governments, companies, performers and academics to disengage from Israel.

The movement sees Eurovision "as artwashing - whitewashing through arts" of what it calls Israel’s decades-old regime of military occupation and colonialism, its co-founder Omar Barghouti said.

"We take this Eurovision issue very seriously," he said.

"We are very conscious of how the Israeli government is dying to have such a mega cultural event."

Netta Barzilai is the Winner
Israel's singer Netta Barzilai aka Netta celebrates after winning the Eurovision final last year.
FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images

Israel was chosen to host the 42-nation contest after local singer Netta Barzilai won last year in Portugal with "Toy", propelling her to international stardom. The winning country customarily hosts the following year.

"I believe in protest, it's OK. I don't believe in boycotting," the 26-year-old performer said.

"Eurovision is a European contest, it's not Israel, it's a worldwide thing... I encourage other people to come and take part."

So far no participating countries have pulled out of the May 18 event, and Israel says it is preparing measures to counter demonstrations.

"Israel is fully aware that anti-Israel BDS activists will try to disrupt Eurovision," foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Boycott Eurovision 2019 campaign
People are calling for the boycott of Eurovision 2019.

"We will open our doors to all, as long as those people do not come here as enemies."

Israel calls international boycotts, including of its settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, discriminatory and anti-Semitic.

Barghouti rejected those labels, saying the movement "categorically and on principle rejects all forms of racism.”

Many BDS supporters were Jewish, he said.

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