Campaigners say holding the contest in Israel allows it to whitewash its occupation of Palestinian territory, as well as its treatment of Palestinians inside and outside of Israel.

Activists are calling on musicians to pull out from the Eurovision song contest, which is being held in the city of Tel Aviv.

The 2019 competition is being held in Israel after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won the 2018 contest.

Watched by 186 million in 2018, Israeli authorities see the contest as a way of improving the country’s brand image, with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling Barzilai “Israel’s best ambassador”.

The country has been eager to ensure the event goes ahead without issue, even ordering its army to finish its recent attacks in Gaza early so that it does not interfere with the song competition.

Israel is the target of intense criticism from human rights activists over its treatment of Palestinians living in lands it occupies. 

Activists say allowing Israel to host the contest gives it an opportunity to “art-wash” its occupation and crimes against Palestinians.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is calling for a boycott of the event and other performances by artists in Israel.

It said: 

“Israel is shamelessly using Eurovision as part of its official Brand Israel strategy, which presents “Israel’s prettier face” to whitewash and distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians.

“Israel massacred 62 Palestinians in Gaza, including six children, just two days after its 2018 Eurovision win. That same evening, Netta Barzilai performed a celebratory concert in Tel Aviv, hosted by the mayor, and said, ‘We have a reason to be happy’.”

One highlight of the event will be a performance by superstar Madonna. Activists are calling on her to take a cue from other performers, such as Lana Del Ray, Lorde and Lauryn Hill, by cancelling her appearance.

Activists put out a parody version of her 1986 hit “Papa Don’t Preach” with the lyrics “Madonna Don’t Go”.

Madonna, however, has rejected the call to pull out.

Besides calling on artists not to perform, activists are also calling on viewers to shun the event by not watching it at home.

At Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the students’ union decided not to host a traditional viewing party of the contest in the union bar and confirmed it would not broadcast the event

According to activist group Jewish Voices for Peace, the calls to avoid the event are already bearing fruit.

In a tweet, it said tickets were going unsold and hotel bookings were also unbooked. Eurovision, it said, had raised more awareness about what Israel was doing to Palestinians.

Source: TRT World