By Freyja Arnarsdottir
The annual Eurovision Song Contest is a European competition in which artists from a wide variety of countries all over Europe as well as Australia perform their own original songs live. However, Eurovision has been clouded with controversy this year.
Netta Barzilai brought Eurovision to Israel in 2019 with a strong performance of her winning song “Toy” last year. However, the fact that Eurovision is in Israel has brought controversy and boycotts.
The BDS or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement calls for an absolute cultural boycott of Eurovision 2019 because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This dispute dates back to the mid-20th century when there was heavy Nazi persecution of Jews. This led to Jews wanting to flee and create a homeland in a large Arab and Muslim territory in what was once a part of the Ottoman Empire. However, the British had already promised this land to the Jews, themselves and the Meccans.
So naturally, this created problems when the Jews wanted to take this land. The Arabs resisted, and Israel fought a number of wars against the neighboring Arab nations, the most important ones being a war in 1948 and one in 1967.
Currently, one of the major territories, the West Bank is under Palestinian authority but under occupation of Israeli troops who enforce strict restrictions on Palestinian movements and activities. Jews also built extensive communities, illegally, in the West Bank that fundamentally gave the Palestinians less land.
Essentially, this conflict is ultimately over land, and the many fights have led to many deaths on both sides. This along with the unfair policies towards Palestines is why so many people want to boycott Eurovision.
Despite these calls for boycotts, none of the 41 competing countries pulled out of the competition. Greece’s representative, Katarine Duska states “I perform for people. I never perform for governments.” Duska wants to hold on to the original meaning of Eurovision. “I think it’s a beautiful event that stands for beautiful things, for friendship and for cultural diversity,” she explained.
In addition, Israel’s competitor Kobi Marimi, who will be performing in his home country expressed that instead of focusing on politics, “…we should focus on music and love.”
Although the singers participating in the event have tried not to let the political part of Eurovision controversy sway them, many celebrities have also publicly spoken out about whether or not they are in favor of this year’s competition.
Wolf Alice, who are a famous British alternative rock band have made it clear that they are opposed to the idea of Eurovision being held in Israel. Joff Oddie, the guitarist supports the boycott. He states, “This is the most controversial Eurovision Song Contest that’s ever happened.” Oddie plans to DJ at an anti-Eurovision gig in London that will take place during the Grand Final of Eurovision.
Although, one of the most successful female solo artists of all time and “Queen of Pop”, Madonna did not listen to the calls for boycotts and performed at Eurovision. In a statement to CNN before Eurovision took place Madonna proclaimed, “I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda, nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be.”
She then proceeded to deliver an underwhelming performance at the grand final, but even more interestingly, she displayed the Palestinian and Israeli flags on the backs of two backup dancers. This was meant to feature the violence between the two governments and a call for peace, but the gesture did little but add even more drama to the event.
Whether or not this age-old conflict will be resolved or not is unclear, but the controversy at Eurovision proved that it is definitely not over yet.