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Exclude 'racist' Israel from Eurovision: pro-Palestine group

'Racist' Israel doesn't belong in Eurovision, says Liverpool pro-Palestine group
3 min read
12 May, 2023
Israel will participate in the Eurovision grand final on Saturday amid its ongoing assualt on the besieged Gaza Strip and continuing deadly raids on Palestinian towns in the West Bank.
Liverpool Friends of Palestine is protesting Israel's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, which is taking place in the UK city [Liverpool Friends of Palestine]

Israel should be excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in the UK this weekend, a Liverpool-based pro-Palestine group has said, calling the country "racist".

Israel's entry Noa Kirel, a 22-year-old singer who served in the country's army, will perform in Saturday's grand final after making it through her semi-final on Tuesday. The annual competition is taking place this year in the northern English city of Liverpool.

Liverpool Friends of Palestine (LFoP) coordinator Jeremy Hawthorn said the issue isn't about the individual artist but the country they're representing.

"It's not just a geographical thing. It's also a politics thing that racists don't belong in a music festival," he told The New Arab.

"The overall demand is to exclude Israel from the competition. We're not asking for the competition itself to be stopped, and we're not calling for anyone to boycott going to the Eurovision events for that reason because… they did nothing to deserve that."

Hawthorn added: "We want and are hoping that people will be enjoying the festival as a whole. But if they can give Israel nul points, then I think that will be as good as they can do in the circumstances."

He spoke amid an ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip which has killed at least 31 Palestinians this week. Israel is currently ruled by a far-right coalition which includes extremist ministers who have previously made violently racist statements about Palestinians.

More than 145 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers this year.

LFoP is organising a protest for Saturday after a similar demonstration on Tuesday that Hawthorn said drew around 100 people.

Israel's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest has been opposed by pro-Palestine protesters [Liverpool Friends of Palestine]

Among the attendees on Tuesday was city councillor Alan Gibbons, acting leader of the left-wing Liverpool Community Independents group.

"[Eurovision is] a huge platform that essentially legitimises every state… to a huge viewing public," he told The New Arab on Thursday.

"I think it's important to register a protest and to say Israel is a state which does discriminate against the Palestinian people, which has in very recent times, like 2014, cost the lives of 2,300 people."

Gibbons said the media has barely discussed Israel's presence at Eurovision, held in the UK this year due to the war in Ukraine which as 2022's winner had the right to host the event.

"I mean, I could imagine if there was a Russian presence at the time of discrimination against the Ukrainian people and the invasion, all hell would let loose," he added.

"So, there is an imbalance in media coverage when it comes to Israel and Palestine."

The Eurovision grand final on Saturday will take place on the same day as rallies marking the 75th anniversary of the Nakba (or "catastrophe" in English), when 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed as the state of Israel was formed in 1948.

A Nakba protest will be held in Liverpool, with a national demonstration organised by the British Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other groups set to take place in London.

"This weekend, as Palestinians mark 75 years of the ongoing Nakba, and continue steadfast in their struggle for their rights, we all have a responsibility to stand with them," said PSC director Ben Jamal.

"Instead of welcoming apartheid Israel with open arms, the European Broadcasting Union should suspend them from the competition, until they end their violations of Palestinian rights and international law," he added, referring to the body that oversees Eurovision.

In 2019, Iceland received a fine after its entry staged a protest with scarves bearing the Palestinian flag at the grand final of the competition, which that year took place in Israel.

The New Arab has contacted Eurovision, the Israeli public broadcaster Kan and Noa Kirel's record label, Atlantic Records, for comment.