by: Jo Sarah Stanford
Wednesday, 15 May 2019 | The 64th Eurovision Song Contest kicked off in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, much to the chagrin of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigned for the event to be canceled or moved from Israel. However, artists ignored calls not to perform and thousands of tourists have landed in Israel to participate in the biggest entertainment event to take place in the Jewish state in years.
The Eurovision semifinals opened at the Expo Tel Aviv center in front of thousands of fans who flew in from all across the world to see the world’s largest music competition, with contestants from 41 different countries. The grand final on Saturday night is expected to draw a crowd of 7,300 in the main arena, plus many more in a “village” specially built for an outdoor broadcast. A viewing audience of 189 million is expected worldwide.
BDS—the anti-Semitic movement whose aim is to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist, under the guise of ending Israel’s so-called “oppression” of the Palestinian people—began its “Boycott Eurovision 2019” campaign as soon as Israeli pop singer Netta Barzilai won the 2018 contest and secured the right to host the contest the following year.
BDS called on both singers and spectators to boycott the event as long as it was held in Israel or if Israel had any role in organizing the event. Yet despite the protracted efforts, BDS’s calls have been unsuccessful.
High-profile pop singer, Madonna—invited as a guest performer in the grand finale—was targeted in the BDS campaign. However, she was not deterred, stating she will “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda.” Over the years, many artists have canceled tours to Israel due to BDS pressure. Others have criticized BDS for bullying and intimidation.
Initially a few Eurovision contestants voiced their intention to boycott the event, but in the end did not. The Icelandic contestants, Hatari, threatened an onstage protest, but have so far complied with Eurovision’s ban on politics.
An open letter signed by 140 famous musicians called for the boycott of the Israeli-hosted event, but it too was unsuccessful.
During the opening night on Tuesday, Barzilai took to the stage to open this year’s contest and reprise her winning song. In an interview with Foreign Press Association last week, she condemned any attempt to boycott the event. “This is a festival of light,” the Times of Israel reported. “For people to boycott light is spreading darkness.”
Traditionally, the country’s capital hosts the event, and in previous years—1979 and 1999—Jerusalem hosted the song contest. However, this time hosting rights were put to open tender and Tel Aviv secured the show.
BDS counts the fact that Jerusalem is not hosting Eurovision as a partial win. However, venue suitability and the fact that Jerusalem shuts down for Shabbat (Sabbath) contributed to the decision to hold the event in Tel Aviv instead. Event organizers said that Tel Aviv won the right to host because of its “creative and compelling bid” and that it provided the “best overall setup,” reported Israel Hayom.
Security at the event is high, costing an estimated US $5.6 million. During the first semifinal on Tuesday, there was a security scare when hackers breached Israeli broadcaster Kan, displaying a fake rocket warning from the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and threatening images of the Eurovision event being targeted. The hackers’ broadcast lasted for approximately two minutes, but authorities believe it was not seen by many. Investigations as to who launched the attack are still underway.
Posted on May 15, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 15, 2019)
Photo Credit: Eurovision Song Contest/YouTube/screenshot
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