'Israel knows Eurovision can help its image, this is why a boycott is important' (2024)

I’m a huge Eurovision fan.

I discovered it through my husband in 2014 – when I was amazed that a bearded drag queen like Conchita Wurst could win – and have been obsessed with the camp, the spectacle and the music ever since.

Each year, we normally host a viewing party at home and we even travelled to Stockholm in 2016 to watch the show live – the year Ukraine’s Jamala won with 1944, a song which alluded to the Russian annexation of Crimea.

But sadly, I have decided I won’t be able to watch the contest this year.

My decision came about after the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) – a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – urged broadcasters, national competitors, finalists, production crews, and viewers in March to boycott the contest due to Israel’s inclusion.

With over 34,000 people killed in Gaza – majority of them women and children – in the last seven months, I couldn’t agree more with this path of action.

Grassroots movements across Europe applied significant pressure to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to drop Israel from the competition – both before the country announced its act, Eden Golan, and after.

Coalitions of thousands of artists in Finland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Portugal, Norway, Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, the UK, and elsewhere joined the call.

Unfortunately, it seems to have been ignored, with the EBU claiming in February that Eurovision is ‘non-political’.

But how can they claim that when Russia was swiftly – and justifiably – barred from the competition in 2022 after its invasion of Ukraine? Russia has not been back in the competition since, which is clear to me to be a decision informed by politics.

And yet Israel has been allowed to remain in the competition, despite carrying out what leading experts – like Francesca Albanese, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories – call a ‘crime of genocide’.

And so, because the EBU will not remove Israel, I have decided to join in calls for the boycott.

I was planning to host a big ticketed screening party in Dalston – with around 800 people in an auditorium screaming and cheering along – but I have since cancelled it.

I’m very sad to be missing one of my favourite events of the year – and also feeling the effects financially by missing the work it would have provided – but it feels much more important and urgent to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In my opinion, Israel’s inclusion in the competition is pinkwashing at its finest.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, pinkwashing is a propaganda strategy that cynically exploits LGBTQ+ rights to project a progressive image, while concealing less popular actions.

As reported in The New York Times in 2011, Aeyal Gross – a professor of law at Tel Aviv University – argued that ‘gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool’. It came after revelations that the tourism board of Tel Aviv had reportedly begun a campaign of around $90million (£71.5million) to brand the city as ‘an international gay vacation destination’.

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As an event with a huge gay audience, Eurovision fits perfectly into this campaign.

Israel seems to understand the cultural power of pinkwashing and the opportunity this competition represents to polish their international reputation with a sparkly pop performance. They even won the competition in 2018 with Netta’s song, Toy.

I believe Israel knows Eurovision can help to restore its image, which is why the country’s president Isaac Herzog said in February: ‘It is important for Israel to appear in Eurovision’.

This is why a boycott is more important than ever.

Earlier this year, I co-signed an open letter, along with hundreds of other queer artists, encouraging Olly Alexander – the UK’s entrant this year – to join us in boycotting. Olly is someone I really respect and who I’ve typically agreed with on political issues, but he’s completely missed the mark in this case.

He posted a letter signed by eight of this year’s other acts saying they ‘stand in solidarity with the oppressed’ and ‘believe in the unifying power of music’ and so have decided to remain in the competition. I feel this is a completely anaemic statement that says nothing.

Imagine the impact it would have made (and the solidarity shown) if all these artists had withdrawn instead.

I empathise with his predicament – I have no idea about Olly’s contract with the EBU, what repercussions he might have faced had he pulled out, and it’s not fair that this amazing career opportunity is being tarnished by things outside of his control. That said, I’m also very disappointed in his completely milquetoast statement, and would argue that doing the right thing when it’s hard is much more important than doing it when it’s easy.

That’s why I would urge Olly to reconsider – it’s not too late to make a huge statement and use his platform for real good.

Some people have argued that boycotting Eurovision has no real impact on the plight of Palestinians. This ignores that it is a group of Palestinian academics and leaders itself that has led calls for boycott the contest and therefore denies their agency.

It is also one of the key ways we can make our voices heard.

The power of boycotting was proven in South Africa, where it was one of the key levers that helped end apartheid. From being barred from sporting events, to musicians refusing to play in the country, to UK businesses refusing to import South African goods.

Will you be boycotting Eurovision 2024? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

And so, a concerted effort to exert pressure on Israel – financially, culturally and politically – is the best chance we have as everyday people of making a difference.

Eurovision is one small part of this movement, but represents an important opportunity to highlight the war, the hypocrisy of Israel’s inclusionand to maintain pressure on western governments.

As queer people, we should not allow our dearest cultural institutions to be used to provide cover for Israel’s actions, which have been met with allegations of genocide.

I believe that the Palestinian people have a right to life, autonomy and self-determination. Until those rights are recognised, we should do everything we can to protest.

So please consider joining the boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest.

And if you need to fill the Eurovision-shaped hole, you could copy my bootleg version.

I’ll be at home playing a selection of previous year’s songs with a group of friends, offering our own Graham Norton-esque commentary, and orchestrating our own ‘live’ vote.

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Follow Metro’s Eurovision 2024 live blog as the final gets underway

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.

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MORE : Ireland’s Eurovision act Bambie Thug accuses Israeli broadcaster of rule breach

'Israel knows Eurovision can help its image, this is why a boycott is important' (2024)


'Israel knows Eurovision can help its image, this is why a boycott is important'? ›

I believe Israel knows Eurovision can help to restore its image, which is why the country's president Isaac Herzog said in February: 'It is important for Israel to appear in Eurovision'. This is why a boycott is more important than ever.

Why are we boycotting Eurovision? ›

Thousands of individuals and organisations – including more than 400 affiliated with the UK-based Queers for Palestine – have called for a boycott in protest of Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

What is the Israel controversy with Eurovision? ›

Amid calls for Israel's expulsion from the event because of its airstrike in Gaza, the country was allowed to participate in the competition. However, the participant was told to change the title of its song, which was originally called 'October Rain' because of its reference to Hamas' attack on October 7.

Why is Israel allowed to participate in Eurovision? ›

The EBU said in February it had decided to allow Israel to enter Eurovision for two highly predictable reasons. The first: "The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political music event and a competition between public service broadcasters who are members of the EBU.

What is the controversy with the Eurovision Song Contest 2024? ›

This year's contest has been one of the most controversial for a while. Irish entry Bambie Thug criticised organisers for asking them to alter a pro-Palestinian message before their performance in the first semi-final.

Which country was kicked out of Eurovision? ›

Joost Klein, the Dutch candidate in the Eurovision song contest, has been banned from the competition's final taking place tonight in Malmö, Sweden, following a formal complaint by a female member of the production crew.

Is Russia in Eurovision 2024? ›

Notably, the list excludes Belarus and Russia. Participating countries include Eurovision founders the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and the previous contest's winner, Sweden.

Are any countries banned from Eurovision? ›

Critics of Israel's participation point out that just two years ago, Eurovision disallowed Russia in a similar situation. On February 25, 2022, Eurovision banned Russia a day after its invasion of Ukraine.

Is Israel still in Eurovision 2024? ›

Eurovision 2024: Israel's Eden Golan makes it through to grand final with Hurricane after protests | Ents & Arts News | Sky News.

Which composer is banned in Israel? ›

There has been an unofficial ban on live performances of Wagner in Israel ever since. Wagner has been played at concerts over the years, but not without furious opposition, especially from Holocaust survivors in Israel who say the music of Hitler's favorite composer shouldn't be performed in the Jewish state.

Why did Morocco leave Eurovision? ›

At the close of voting, it had received 7 points, all of them from Italy, placing 18th in a field of 19, and ahead of perennial last-place recipient Finland. The country's second-to-last place was a disappointment for Moroccan public television, which decided never to participate in the contest again.

Who's going to win Eurovision 2024? ›

As it stands, no act has withdrawn from the contest. So, with 37 countries heading into the semi-finals ahead of a grand final featuring 26 songs on Saturday, who might we see take first place on the night? Croatia is currently the country to beat, with Baby Lasagne (real name Marko Purisic) singing Rim Tim Tagi Dim.

Is Eurovision 2024 safe? ›

Swedish police have assured that fans need not be concerned about safety at this year's Eurovision Song Contest, despite heightened tensions due to the conflict in Gaza.

Which countries have pulled out of Eurovision 2024? ›

Thirty-seven countries participated in the contest, the same number as in 2023. Romania opted not to participate, and Luxembourg competed for the first time since 1993. The Netherlands was disqualified from the contest between the second semi-final and the final, but the country retained its right to vote.

Why didn t the Beatles do Eurovision? ›

The Beatles were never entered in the Eurovision Song Contest because by the time the band gained international fame in the early 1960s, they had already surpassed the need for such a platform to showcase their music.

Why didn t Israel host Eurovision? ›

In 1980, the IBA declined to host the contest for a second successive year for financial reasons, and as the date for the contest in the Hague conflicted with Yom HaZikaron – Israeli Memorial Day – Israel did not participate. This is the only instance of a winning country not competing the following year.

Why are people pulling out of Eurovision? ›

However, the show was mired by widespread political backlash over the inclusion of Israel amid the Hamas-Israel conflict. Many of the contestants, including Ireland's Bambie Thug and UK representative Olly Alexander, faced pressure to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestine.

What is the deal with Eurovision? ›

Each participating country submits an original song to be performed live and transmitted to national broadcasters via the Eurovision and Euroradio networks, with competing countries then casting votes for the other countries' songs to determine a winner.

Why did Italy pull out of Eurovision? ›

From 1994 to 1996, Italy withdrew again, with RAI citing a lack of interest in participating. Italy returned in 1997, before withdrawing again without explanation, and the country did not participate again until 2011. None of the 20th century Eurovision-winning songs were particularly successful in the Italian charts.


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