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171 Swedish artists demand boycott of Eurovision in Israel

April 4, 2019 11:14 A.M. (Updated: April 4, 2019 3:50 P.M.)
STOCKHOLM (Ma'an) -- Some 171 Swedish artists and celebrities have signed an open letter urging to boycott the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday.

In the open letter, the Swedish signatories said that "Just a few days after the Israeli victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2018, Israel's army killed 62 unarmed Palestinians who protested against their prison-like imprisonment in Gaza. Six of those murdered were children.”

This section of the letter referred to the peaceful protests, known as "The Great March of Return," in which thousands of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip -- which has suffered from a nearly 12-year Israeli siege -- took to the borders to demand their right of return as refugees to their original homelands, now in present-day Israel.

The letter continued, “At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his delight that Netta Barzilai, the winning singer, was the best ambassador for Israel in the world."

“We, Swedish artists and cultural workers who have signed this call, cannot quietly watch Israel use the Eurovision Song Contest to conceal their crimes against the Palestinian people,” the signatories stressed.

The letter concluded, "As long as Israel, with its apartheid policy, denies the Palestinians their basic human rights, we must renounce all participation in Israeli cultural exchanges.”

In response to all the recent calls for a humanitarian boycott, the 2018 Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai claimed it is "not the answer" and "boycotting light spreads darkness."

Members of Hatari, the Icelandic representative band, also signed a petition calling for the boycott and announced its intention to protest on stage, despite it being a violation of the contest's rules.

In September 2018, over 140 artists from around the world, including six Israeli artists, signed a letter calling for the boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest and demanding the song contest should be boycotted if it is "hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights."
Performing in Israel still remains highly politicized, with many criticizing that Israel's military action towards the Palestinians is more than enough to justify a cultural boycott.

The semifinals of the Eurovision song contest will be held at the Tel Aviv Convention Center on May 14th and 16th, and the finals will be held on May 18th 2019.

It is noteworthy, that hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel is not necessary neither is it the only option to be considered. In 1980, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) had declined to host the contest in Israel for alleged financial reasons. Hence, the contest was held in The Hague, Netherlands instead.

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