Jerusalem backlash causes Eurovision turmoil
JERUSALEM When the United States recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israelis hoped other countries would follow suit. Instead, the move has created a backlash. The latest setback threatens the contested city’s hopes of hosting the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest – an affair that has become something of a national obsession.
Earlier this month, Argentina pulled out of a highly anticipated exhibition football match with Israel after the government moved the game to Jerusalem. Britain’s Prince William, set to visit next week, has listed Jerusalem’s Old City as part of the ‘‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’’ on his schedule. And now, the city’s hopes for the beloved Eurovision finale are fading.
‘‘There is a greater concern this year than any other year I can remember about the political backdrop surrounding Eurovision,’’ said William Lee Adams, who runs a popular Eurovision blog. ‘‘Many Eurovision fans build their whole year around a trip to Eurovision, and just given the nature of what’s going on, their ideal has been tarnished.’’
Israel won Eurovision last month with a flashy pop tune called Toy by the charismatic, previously unknown singer Netta Barzilai, who dazzled viewers with her feminist lyrics, unconventional appearance and signature chicken dance. Her victory won Israel the right to host next year’s Eurovision contest.
But the celebrations were tempered by continued bloodshed along the Gaza border, as well as the controversial move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem two days later.
Israel is also confronting an AP international activist group calling for boycotts against the Jewish state. Supporters say it is a way to promote Palestinian rights through non-violent means, but Israel says the campaign masks a deeper aim of delegitimising or even destroying the country.
The so-called BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) group has called on Eurovision’s sponsor, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), to boycott the contest in Israel next year ‘‘to avoid complicity and business as usual with this regime, and to avoid irreversibly tarnishing the Eurovision brand with Israel’s egregious human rights record’’.
Activists had targeted Barzilai and her song ahead of this year’s contest, with a campaign calling on voters to award her zero points.
Hosting the competition in Jerusalem could present a predicament for the public broadcasters that make up the EBU, sparking criticism that they are taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is expected to present four cities as potential hosts, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognised.
The EBU has called for keeping politics out of the contest. The host city is set to be announced by September. AP
Israeli singer Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision victory has made the song contest the latest battleground between Israel and boycott activists, who oppose Jerusalem hosting the 2019 event.