PACBI Statement

And the winner of Eurovision in apartheid Tel Aviv is…

More than 150,000 people, hundreds of artists and over 100 LGBT+ organizations joined our calls to boycott Eurovision 2019

As Eurovision proceedings come to an end in apartheid Tel Aviv, the winner is already clear: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

More than 150,000 Europeans and others signed petitions urging the boycott of the contest, hundreds of leading artists lent their support, including former Eurovision contestants and one winner, and well over 100 LGBT+ organizations and centers joined the calls.

Having claimed for months that tens of thousands of tourists would travel to apartheid Tel Aviv for the contest, Israeli organizers now admit that only around 5,000 to 7,000 -- a fraction of the expected visitors -- had arrived, a clear sign of the success of the year-long worldwide BDS campaign.

We are building our movement, mainstreaming Palestinian rights, including the rights of our refugees, and winning unprecedented support for isolating Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation. We have together succeeded in preventing Israel’s regime from using Eurovision, the world’s biggest non-sports televised event, to artwash its crimes against Palestinians, especially in the besieged Gaza Strip.

With mobilizations in more than twenty five countries around the world, BDS has experienced new support for our growing movement beyond the most optimistic expectations, thanks to the principled support of so many, and the tireless efforts of human rights activists.

Here, we provide the context to this campaign, celebrate our collective work and catalogue its milestones.

Israel massacred 62 Palestinians in Gaza, including six children, just two days after its May 12th 2018 Eurovision win. Later that day, Israel’s winner Netta Barzilai performed a celebratory concert in apartheid Tel Aviv, hosted by the mayor, and said, “we have a reason to be happy.”

The subsequent call to boycott Eurovision hosted by Israel was initiated by Palestinian journalists and cultural organizations, who asked in June 2018 if Eurovision organizers would “have held the contest in apartheid South Africa?”.

They added that “only through effective and sustained international pressure will Israel be compelled to comply with its obligations under international law and to respect the human rights of Palestinians”.

Facing a growing boycott campaign in many countries, the Israeli government swiftly dropped its prior insistence that the contest would be held in Jerusalem, an early victory in the campaign to boycott the contest.

But regardless of which apartheid city the contest was to be held in, if it was hosted by Israel, the BDS campaign against it was to continue and escalate.

Israel effectively declared itself an apartheid state not long after, its continuous shift to the far-right more obvious than ever.

In more than half of the 41 participating countries, diverse and creative BDS calls were heard, including in Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, the Spanish state, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

In the USA, Jewish Voice for Peace joined the growing international calls to boycott the contest.

Last September, scores of leading artists, former Eurovision contestants and one winner supported “the heartfelt appeal from Palestinian artists” in an open letter that resulted in widespread, mainstream coverage around the world.

They wrote: “Until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice and equal rights, there should be no business-as-usual with the state that is denying them their basic rights.”

Israel's Eurovision 2018 winner and cultural ambassador, Netta Barzilai, toured Europe last November. Her shows were protested by human rights campaigners after a call from Palestinian queers, who highlighted Barzilai’s recruitment as an ambassador for Israel, making her activities subject to the institutional boycott that Palestinian civil society calls for.

In December, singers eligible for Eurovision in the Spanish state's wildly popular TV show Operacion Triunfo said Israel hosting the contest was "unfortunate" and they would prefer it to take place elsewhere, amid growing mainstream coverage of the BDS campaign.

A few weeks after, British band The Tuts, who were later to tour with The Specials, announced that they had been invited to enter the BBC’s You Decide TV show that selects the UK’s Eurovision entry, but had refused, to widespread acclaim on social media.

Just a few days earlier, human rights defenders in Paris had taken to the stage of the French Eurovision finalist selection show on live TV, insisting the contest should be boycotted.

Soon after, fifty prominent British cultural figures wrote a letter to the BBC, urging the broadcaster to press for Eurovision to be relocated.

The same day, scores of LGBT+ groups published a call for the the boycott of Eurovision and Tel Aviv Pride, in support of Palestinian queers and against Israel’s cynical pinkwashing agenda.

Well over 100 groups, including BeLongTo, Ireland’s national LGBT+ youth organisation, and the Naples and Padua sections of Arcigay, Italy’s oldest and largest LGBT+ advocacy organisation, have now endorsed the call.

In February, film director Julio Pérez del Campo supported the call to boycott Eurovision in his televised acceptance speech at the Goya Awards (the “Oscars” of the Spanish state).

Just a few weeks later, legendary composer and producer Brian Eno wrote an op-ed urging the UK’s Eurovision contestant to “help to ensure that Eurovision 2019 will be remembered as an occasion of principled protest, not another episode of cultural whitewashing.”

The next month, Haneen Maikey, Director of alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, a grassroots Jerusalem-based queer Palestinian political organisation, and Dr Hilary Aked, a London-based writer, researcher and activist published an article in The Independent, detailing how Israel exploits LGBT+ identity to pinkwash its crimes.

This followed an article about Israel’s pinkwashing of occupation and apartheid in Irish media.

With months still to go until the contest, as competing countries were selecting their contestants, the boycott of Eurovision was already supported by trade unions including the Musicians’ Union of Ireland, Irish Equity and CGT, political parties, and politicians in Europe and beyond.

More than one hundred Palestinian artists -- including award-winning filmmakers, musicians, poets and others -- then urged Eurovision contestants to withdraw, in an open letter:

“As Palestinian artists – brutalised, besieged, occupied and exiled – we cannot offer the glitz and glamour of Eurovision. We can offer something much bigger: a place in the history books.”

Days later, twenty six Israeli artists also urged Eurovision participants to withdraw, writing: “We, as artists, can’t sit silent as our Palestinian counterparts suffer silencing, dehumanization and violence, and we ask you to join us in speaking out.”

Human rights activists and artists in many participating countries appealed privately and publicly to Eurovision contestants, broadcasters, hosts, judges and others.

When it was announced in April that Madonna would perform at Eurovision, the coverage demonstrated the predominance of BDS over Israel’s attempts to artwash apartheid.

PACBI urged Madonna to cancel, informing her that “Israel’s fanatic, far-right government is cynically exploiting your performance, and those of the contestants, to mark its deepening oppression of Palestinians”.

Speed Sisters, an all-women racing team who Madonna had previously praised as “fighting for freedom in Palestine”, also appealed to her to cancel.

Almost 40,000 people signed PACBI and Jewish Voice for Peace’s petition, urging Madonna to “stand with us on the right side of history”.

Dozens of Palestinian women artists also wrote an open letter to Madonna: “When the walls come crashing down and freedom and justice finally ring, we invite you to come and share your music with all of us on this land.”

Israeli composer and musician Ohal Grietzer made an appeal to Madonna, writing that she is “ignoring the plea of Palestinian women to stand with them, or at least not interrupt them, as they construct avenues to defend and claim their rights.”

Madonna eventually made clear that her vaunted human rights support did not extend to heeding the call of the oppressed people she claims to support. PACBI’s response was widely covered by mainstream outlets and international news agencies.

Meanwhile, two electronic musicians, Jaakko Eino Kalevi and Onra, withdrew from the EU-sponsored Electrovision beach party, a Eurovision fringe event at the “Eurovision Village” at Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park. The park is built on the site of al-Manshiyya, a Palestinian neighborhood ethnically cleansed to make way for the creation of Israel.

In a sign of BDS’s growing, principled links with diverse grassroots struggles, Barcelona’s long-established LGBT+ center El Casal Lambda cancelled its Eurovision party, citing its “long and extensive experience defending human rights”. Copenhagen’s LGBT+ youth organization cancelled their screening of Eurovision and celebrated the music of iconic Eurovision winners Abba instead, in opposition to Israel’s pinkwashing agenda.

Several insightful features, reports and articles highlighted Israel’s pinkwashing and amplified the voices of queer Palestinian, Israeli and international activists, artists and writers.

Ghadir Shafie, co-director of Aswat, the Palestinian feminist Center For Sexual and Gender Freedoms, and Palestinian LGBT+ activist Elias Wakeem were interviewed by the UK’s Channel 4 News Uncovered report on Israeli pinkwashing.

Belfast’s prestigious Queen’s University student union also cancelled their Eurovision party, and in Melbourne, an LGBT+ bar cancelled the screening of Eurovision during their Australian election night party due to “the human rights concerns with Eurovision this year”.

Dozens of apartheid-free Eurovision parties have been organized around Europe by Eurovision fans and human rights supporters as an alternative to the broadcast from apartheid Tel Aviv.

Several protests and disruptions took place during the week of Eurovision in apartheid Tel Aviv, with international and Israeli activists capturing the attention of the world’s media.

Globalvision, a live-streamed broadcast alternative Eurovision will showcase Palestinian and international artists simultaneous to Eurovision, including Brian Eno, DAM and many more.

The year-long BDS campaign to boycott Eurovision hosted by apartheid Israel went beyond expectations, winning new support for our human rights movement and building principled links with anti-racist, feminist, LGBT+ and other struggles.

That’s why the BDS movement for Palestinian rights is the true Eurovision winner!


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