In a competitive year with a number of fan favourites, Israel’s Netta Barzilai outdid everyone. The “Toy” singer won over European televoters and took the trophy in a storm of Mizrahi sounds, chicken clucks and bold colour. Now, as Israeli fans celebrate the momentous win, attention turns to Israel hosting Eurovision 2019 and the growing controversy surrounding that.
Iceland has emerged as a hotspot of dissent. Some of the country’s Eurovision artists — from both the national finals and the actual ESC — have called on national broadcaster RÚV to boycott the 2019 contest over the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Among them is Daði Freyr, who came second to Svala in the national final in 2017 and who has emerged with his band Gagnamagnið as one of the country’s most beloved acts. Fans want him and the band to re-enter Söngvakeppni…but it’s clear that 2019 won’t be the year for him. He is very strong minded when it comes to matters of Israel vs. Palestine.
He tweeted: “Gagnamagnið was considering a come-back in Söngvakeppni 2019. However, we can not with good conscience be a part of the joy that is Eurovision, whilst the government of Israel and its army is brutally violating the rights of the people of Palestine around the corner. We urge RÚV to not take part in 2019″.
Gagnamagnið íhugaði þátttöku í Söngvakeppninni 2019.
Við getum ekki ímyndað okkur að taka þátt í Eurovisiongleðinni með góðri samvisku á meðan Ísraelsríki og þeirra her beitir Palestínumönnum hrottalegu ofbeldi í næsta nágrenni.
Við hvetjum RÚV til að taka ekki þátt.
— Daði Freyr (@dadimakesmusic) May 15, 2018
Daði is not the only one calling for a boycott. Paul Oscar — perhaps Iceland’s most beloved Eurovision star ever — expressed his opinion on the matter in a recent Facebook post.
“As much as I love Eurovision, I don’t think it should be too hard to sit one out and boycott a contest hosted by a nation that is repeatedly breaking international laws, violating basic human rights and committing bloody war crimes every single day. And has been doing so for the past 70 years. In this modern day and age, the news about Israel are definitely reaching people who upon till now may have been completely clueless about just how serious things are at Gaza. I used to be one of those clueless people. I had very little knowledge about what exactly was happening when Iceland last competed in Jerusalem in 1999.
Israels imagery campaign is biting them in the a** now. We know better! A friend of mine said: “I feel sorry for the people of Israel, who went through millenniums of segregation and the Holocaust, without regaining any knowledge about what peace truly is about. Instead they have now become the exact replica of their enemies”. This is the perfect opportunity to protest, to object against the massacre on the people of Palestine and draw the line for Israel. Dear RÚV. Grab this opportunity and use our absence to protest. We shouldn’t engage in this joyous party of denial! Entertainment, pop songs and glamorous outfits CAN be a political matter. To try and separate politics from entertainment and sports is just a lame excuse to ignore the matter in hand. Murdering innocent children is beyond everything political. It’s inhumane!
Let’s boycott Eurovision 2019. To sit out on one contest is nothing compared to Israel’s massacre in Palestine. Who in their right minds wants to perform in Jerusalem, when there is a bloodbath right around the corner? I sure don’t!”
And the Icelandic public seems to agree with Daði and Paul. A petition was launched on Monday urging RÚV to boycott the contest. At the time of writing this post on Wednesday morning, more than 16,000 Icelanders had already signed it.
On the evening news on Tuesday, Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson, the TV program director of RÚV, said that Iceland has not yet confirmed its participation in 2019, and said that they had until the fall to do so. He also said that the broadcaster would have the Israel/Palestine situation in mind when assessing whether or not Iceland will confirm. This suggests that RÚV is really thinking things over regarding the whole matter. Speaking to MBL, however, it seems Iceland is leaning toward participation. Guðmundsson said: “We expect to take part next year as every year”.
Israel’s Eurovision win comes at a time of mounting tension, which coincides with the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. On Monday Gaza saw unprecedented levels of violence that left 58 Palestinians dead and thousands more injured. As The Jerusalem Post reports, it was the highest death toll from Israeli fire since 2014.
Other European nations might also be thinking carefully about their next step. Dublin’s Lord Mayor has already called for Ireland to boycott for the contest.