Jerusalem back­lash causes Euro­vi­sion tur­moil

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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.

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