There has been pressure for a number of European nations to withdraw from next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, scheduled to be hosted by Israel in May 2019. After Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won the Contest in Lisbon last week for her song ‘Toy’, she announced ‘Next Year in Jerusalem!’. Although there has yet to be any official announcement from the national broadcaster IPBC or the EBU, many sources point towards Jerusalem as the host city for 2019. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his interest in Jerusalem hosting the Contest and the other main rival city Tel Aviv have stated they have no interest in putting a bid in.
The news is not welcomed by all, and some politicians, political groups and other individuals have expressed their disgust at the recent and historic violence that the Israeli state has carried out on the Palestinian people on the Gaza Strip. In the wake of the Eurovision result, there has been widespread attacks on Palestinians following the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Among those expressing that their nation should boycott the Contest in 2019 in protest are former winner Charlie McGettigan (Ireland) and a petition started by an Icelandic native has garnered almost 20,000 signatures.
The first prominent person to express their distaste for Israel as hosts was Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha. He called on Irish broadcaster to withdraw from the 2019 edition due to it taking place in Israel. Mr Mac Donncha has be banned from entering Israel due to his support for the BDS movement.
Another Irish politician, this time from the Sinn Féin party, Lynn Boylan agreed, She took to her Twitter account to express support for a boycott of the Contest if hosted by Israel: “Israel wins Eurovision so let’s make BDS more successful than ever in 2019”. This is a popular opinion within the party with Nessa Childers MEP and Órla Nic Biorna agreeing. Sinn Fein are an all Ireland political party who are pro-Palestine, equating the British government’s actions and military presence in Northern Ireland during ‘the Troubles’ with Israel’s current actions in Palestine.
Irish Eurovision Winner Charlie McGettigan has also called for RTE to boycott the event stating “Look, we don’t agree with this, to celebrate while other people are dying”.
Whether or not RTE take these objections on board or not remains to be seen. Ireland has previously taken part in the Contest in 1979 and 1999 when Israel last hosted.
An Icelandic developer Árni Steingrímur Sigurðsson has started a petition calling on the Icelandic national broadcaster RUV calls to withdraw from Eurovision 2019. In the petition, which has garnered in excess of 18,000 signatures, he cites human rights violations against the Palestinian people as a reason to withdraw.
Some former Icelandic representatives have also added given their support to the cause with Pall Oskar (1997) saying “As much as I love Eurovision, I don’t think it should be too hard to sit one out and boycott a contest hosted by a nation that is repeatedly breaking international laws, violating basic human rights and committing bloody war crimes every single day. And has been doing so for the past 70 years”.
Despite over 5% of the population of Iceland signing the petition, a spokesperson from RUV say they intend to go ahead with participation in the contest as like every other year.
The Left Party of Malmö suggested that Eurovision Song Contest shouldn’t take place in Israel, stating: “It’s absolutely unreasonable for Israel to host this gigantic music contest while the occupation is in progress. We want Israel to be excluded from Eurovision on humanitarian grounds. We can not continue dancing while the persecution of the Palestinian people continues. Boycott Israel now!” Despite this protest, Swedish broadcaster SVT confirmed provisional participation in the 2019 contest.
In the United Kingdom, members of the both the Liberal Democrat Party and the group called “We Support Jeremy Corbyn” have called upon the UK government to boycott the event claiming that their participation would condone “outrageous human rights violations”. No one from Labour, nor Jeremy Corbyn himself has commented on the situation. The BBC have yet to confirm their participation for Eurovision 2019, but given that they have competed in Israel in 1979 and 1999 and that they are one of the Big Five nations, their participation is expected to go ahead.
So far 16 of the 40+ eligible countries have confirmed their participation for 2019. This includes Spain, Germany, France, Israel, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, Poland, San Marino, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine. Most nations tend to wait until closer to September to confirm participation so this isn’t an indicator whether Israel’s hosting will have an effect on mass withdrawal.