Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

No compromise in Israel Eurovision boycott



Celebrities arguing against a cultural boycott of Israel in the lead-up to this year's Eurovision song contest are missing the point.

Netta Barzilai representing Israel performs during the second grand final dress rehearsal of Eurovision song contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues / Getty Images)A joint letter from figures including Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne and Marina Abramovic states, 'We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange and mutual recognition.'

In a recent interview, last year's Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai took a similar stance, when she refused to politicise her opinion regarding this year's contest. She stated she would perform for a Palestinian audience 'if my singing could solve problems'.

But the concept of 'building bridges through music', as the writers of the joint letter call it, does not recognise the inherent violence in Israel's settler-colonial presence in Palestine.

There is a global trend of normalising Israel, especially when it comes to trade and economic relations. Opposing the boycott follows the same lines — feigning a non-political perspective when it comes to decades of stolen land, ethnic cleansing and dispossession of Palestinians.

One common rhetorical trend used by those opposing the cultural boycott is to describe Israeli colonialism as a 'conflict'. Instead of emphasising the importance of decolonisation, 'compromise' is celebrated. But compromise between the coloniser and the colonised is a dangerous political game that has systematically eroded prospects for Palestinian liberation.

Those pitting themselves against the boycott in favour of compromise are in fact standing against Palestinian aspirations and rights, and denying the rights of a colonised population to resist. Palestinians have called for a boycott, and defenders of human rights have responded accordingly.


"If the core values of Eurovision are 'inclusion, diversity and unity', there is no justification for holding the contest in Israel."


Musician Roger Waters, a committed activist for Palestinian rights, has bluntly denounced all forms of participation in Israel's cultural events.

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Waters outlines the implications of participating in cultural events held in Israel. There is no 'furthering the cause of peace' in such initiatives, he writes. On the contrary, it 'serves to normalise the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protestors'.

These are the issues that those boycotting the contest in Tel Aviv are seeking to highlight.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has explained the process Israel uses to normalise its human rights violations. 'Brand Israel', a strategy initiated in 2006, has sought to promote Israel while eliminating any references to its colonial violence.

In 2009, the former Israeli deputy director general for cultural affairs described the dynamics of Israeli cultural propaganda: 'We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.'

Yet the 'prettier face' will not cancel out the macabre founding of the colonial state and its ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Just days after Israel won Eurovision last year, the Israeli Defence Forces murdered 62 Palestinians on the Gaza border, for demonstrating to demand their right to return to their homeland.

As Palestinian memory continues to make inroads into historical narratives, a cultural boycott of Israel will, in the long run, help Palestinian voices to emerge. It rightfully politicises this year's Eurovision within the colonial framework.

This is a peaceful rejection of colonial domination, and joins with Palestinians in furthering their legitimate struggle for justice. If the core values of the Eurovision song contest are 'inclusion, diversity and unity', there is no justification for holding the contest in Israel.



Ramona WadiRamona Wadi is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. Her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America.

Main image: Netta Barzilai representing Israel performs during the second grand final dress rehearsal of Eurovision song contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues / Getty Images)

Topic tags: Ramona Wadi, Eurovision, Israel, Palestine



submit a comment

Existing comments

Isn't it true that it is the cultural community that desires peace and compromise, so by if they start participating in the boycott, then peace has no chance as it is the hard-headed fundamentalists on both sides who do not want peace. For them, war is good as it shows that the other side is unreasonable, fascist, etc!

angela | 07 May 2019  

I wouldn't have expected Eureka Street to engage in anti-semitism. Israel won the Eurovision competition last year fairly - in a voting system involving all of Europe - and deserve to be treated the same as all other winning countries. Give peace a chance. Unfortunately it is those preaching tolerance who are acting most intolerently against Israel. After all, who fired 600 rockets at who last weekend.

David Crowley | 08 May 2019  

This article is in stark contrast to Teresa Pirola's "Shifting view of Israel and Palestine" which is a balanced commentary. Wadi comments are one sided.

David | 08 May 2019  

So disappointing to see in the comments the tired ‘anti Semitic’ complaint when someone criticises Israeli policy and actions. Personally I don’t see why Israel is in Eurovision (the same goes for Australia).

Peter Weeks | 08 May 2019  

Ms Wadi claims that after 2018 Eurovision, Israel “murdered” 62 Palestinians for “demonstrating to demand their right to return to their homeland.” According to CNN, NBC News and Haaretz (Israel’s anti occupation left wing newspaper), 50 of the 62 people killed were claimed by Hamas as their militants, and 3 of the 62 were claimed by the Islamic Jihad. These are not peaceful innocent people demonstrating for their rights. They were sent with one thing in mind. To cause mayhem and violence. Sources: from Wiki page: CNN, NBC News and Haaretz (Israel’s Anti-Occupation left wing paper). See footnotes 39-41 at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018–19_Gaza_border_protests Militants are not innocent peaceful Palestinian demonstrators.

Tom Simmonds | 08 May 2019  

Thank you Ramona for this important article about Israel's policies in the ME. It is interesting to see how many label those who condemn the actions of the Israel military as "antisemitic" while ignoring the history of what happened to the Palestinians in the period following WW2. Israel was largely founded because the Zionist terrorist gangs took over Palestinian lands, houses and businesses and murdered and terrorised the original inhabitants. The Palestinians have formally recognised the UN 1948 borders, but this is not enough for Israel governments that persist in bulldozing Palestinian houses, taking more land and firing live ammunition into Palestinian civilians when they stage peaceful protests Such totally unacceptable and murderous behaviour should be condemned. The apartheid regime in South Africa faced many boycotts on social, sporting and economic contacts before it was finally defeated. The Israeli leadership needs to show respect for the democratic, hand and human rights of the Palestinian people and has not done so since 1948 with tragic consequences for its victims. People who are critical of the BDS campaign need to be aware that righteous Jews - in Israel and elsewhere - who work for justice support the BDS movement. If we really want peace in the ME, world leaders must recognise the states of Israel and Palestine and the 1948 borders

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 08 May 2019  

When Roger Waters last played in Melbourne, his show featured a flying pig, presumably as a reminder of Pink Floyd's 1977 Animals album cover. Except that this pig, unlike his predecessor, was adorned with a Star of David and dollar bill signs. Does that make him an anti Semite, or just a jerk? I'm not sure but I will say that he is a hypocrite. He suggests that playing in Israel will 'serve to normalise the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protestors'. In 2007, he played a show in China. Apparently the children and unarmed protestors in Tibet are not worthy of Waters' 'committed activism'.

Tony | 08 May 2019  

I found this article helpful and balanced. Why is any criticism of Israel’s blockade on the West Bank and its continuing building of settlements on Palestinian land, regarded as racist. Aren’t the Palestinian people semites too? Many Israeli people and their ancestors have known intolerable suffering. I wonder why this has prevented them to feel more empathy and compassion for those Palestinians who now suffer at the hands of the Israelis. We need an honest two state solution and we need it soon.

Bernadette Owen | 08 May 2019  

The usual ignorant misuse of "semitic" and "antisemitic" peppers the page. Arab friends of mine refer to the PROPHET Ishmael, the half brother, though called "brother", of Isaac, sons of Abraham, hence descendants of SHEM, hence SEMITES, the Arab and the Hebrew. "Semitic" is a philological descriptor of their two languages, so recently diverged that there's a large field of mutual intelligibility. The article spits out the politically expedient fiction "colonization" for return of the descendants of those cast out in Rome's brutal diaspora from the land they'd occupied for millennia, the Exodus from Egypt's version notwithstanding. Ishmael returned to join Isaac in their father's funeral observsnces. Arabs complain that, despite the Balfour Declaration's promise, they were hard done by, post Versailles Treaty (centenary of that REAL end of the Great War is about 7&1/2 weeks ahead) Before WW2, the gathering stream of returning exiles would buy land for Kibbutzim, settle on it, and work it to fruitfulness. Early Zionists saw common cause with Arabs who had lived under the Ottoman yoke. Some Arabs, as in Bethel, led by its Mayor, massacred peaceful Jewish settlers. The article refers to acts of Zionist terrorism. I think of the unjustifiable, brutal bombing of the King David Hotel, by Irgun and/or the Stern Gang, directed not against Arabs, but against "the British occupation", killing not that abstraction, but human interim administrators and peacekeepers, the P.B.I. Arabs got Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria - hundreds of times Israel's area, thousands of times its resources, but that isn't enough. The union of States led by Egypt under Nasser boasted that they'd cut every Jew throat and take "back" the lands 13 centuries of banditry had placed in their bloody hands. Well done, Moshe Dayan. Well done, IDF. In six days God made the Holy Land yours again. Never give back the Golan Height from which Syrian artillery shelled men and women working your fields. Gaza's constant use as a weapons platform to attack civilians, and to infiltrate bombers to schools, school buses, kindergartens, libraries, medical establishments, might have to follow the Golan Height's course to ensure peace.

James Marchment | 09 May 2019  

You are one of those sane, insightful voices crying in this wilderness of mirrors, Bernadette Owen. Both major interested parties need to give up the hate and hyperbole: it gets them nowhere.

Edward Fido | 10 May 2019  

Unfortunately, this is another article which wrongly equates legitimate criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with an extremist agenda to destroy the State of Israel. The BDS movement does not support two states, does not support Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation, and does not support national and human rights for both peoples. It opposes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and compromise. Anybody that doubts this should read our earlier book, Boycotting Israel is Wrong, https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/why-boycotting-israel-wrong/#buy

philip mendes | 10 May 2019  

The barging into Pakestine, and the establishing of Israel, immediately post WW2, without any consultation with Palestinians, is something I could never condone. Palestinians had resided I the region for centuries. Further, they were not in any way associated with the murder by Nazis of 6,ooo,ooo Jews in Europe during WW2.

Lynne Redknap | 11 May 2019  

Boycotting Rugby in South Africa highlighted apartheid through the 1970's and 80's there. Boycotting Eurovision in Israel now highlights current Israeli apartheid policies.

Denis | 11 May 2019  

Tom Simmonds has quoted a Hamas report. He would do well to read the other 50 footnotes on the same Wikipage. The article concludes: Kuwait has proposed two United Nations Security Council statements, which have been blocked by the United States, calling for an investigation into Israel's killing of Palestinian protesters. The Israeli government has praised Israeli troops for protecting the border fence. Media coverage of the events, and what has been termed the "PR battle", has been the object of analysis and controversy. In late February 2019, a United Nations Human Rights Council's independent commission found that of 489 cases of Palestinian deaths or injuries analysed only two were possibly justified as responses to danger by Israeli security forces, deeming the rest illegal, and concluded with a recommendation calling on Israel to examine whether war crimes or crimes against humanity had been committed, and if so, to bring those responsible to trial. These Palestinians are demonstrating for their rights. Most killings are by sniper fire.

Denis | 11 May 2019  

This article is why I usually delete Eureka St before opening it these days. Seriously, what does your editor do that this nonsense gets posted. In the entire Middle East there is one tiny country country, 100 miles long and 40 miles wide that has a vibrant democracy, genuine elections, liberal education and a multi racial Knesset. One day after it's founding by the UN, this small group of Holocaust survivors had to fight again for their life. Not long after that the Palestinians rejected a two state solution. The 62 violent Palestinians were killed when they attacked Israel, fired rockets, sent over incendiary balloons and sent armed militants through tunnels to kill Israelis. The IDF is a defence force protecting it's citizens. It really is time the Palestinians mature, stop choosing to be pawns of other totalitarian Arab dictatorships and act for their own benefit and act peacefully toward Israel. Looking forward to you informing your readers on the 300 slaughtered of Christians in Nigeria in March and plus the Copts in Egypt.

Jim | 13 May 2019  

Paradox. Democracy in Israel is said to oppress autocracy in the West Bank and Gaza. How can democracy oppress autocracy? Like the UK ‘oppressing’ the IRA?

roy chen yee | 25 May 2019  

Similar Articles

Jean Vanier's model for inclusiveness

  • Justin Glyn
  • 09 May 2019

Jean Vanier (1928-2019), sailor, academic, companion and man of boundless hospitality, died on 7 May, leaving behind him not only many communities in grief but also a model for how a world free of discrimination might look.


Shifting views of Israel and Palestine

  • Teresa Pirola
  • 06 May 2019

I am on a study tour of Israel and Palestinian Territories. It is my eighth visit over 12 years, and each time I come away with less clarity and more questions about the tensions that plague this tiny land. Who is the oppressor? Who is the oppressed? It all depends upon the lens you look through at any given moment.