euro trash

Eurovision celebrates as Palestinians mourn expulsion
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, May 16 2019

Photo: Anne Paq, ActiveStills

While Palestinians commemorated the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, Eurovision got into high gear in Tel Aviv. Amnesty International stated on Wednesday:

This weekend, almost 200 million people will tune in to watch the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, but behind the glitz and glamour, few will be thinking of Israel’s role in fuelling seven decades of misery for Palestinian refugees.

Dozens of international artists, human rights organizations, LGBTQ+ groups and Palestinian civil society have called for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision, and protests have continued to grow.

Israel, which has poured more than $30m into the event, sees hosting Eurovision as a major propaganda opportunity to whitewash its image before a worldwide audience. During Tuesday’s opening ceremony, local and international activists protested the contest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. They managed to briefly block one main entrance to the ceremony, according to >Haaretz.

Yet despite Israel’s strenuous efforts, turnout at this year’s Eurovision was dramatically lower than last year in Lisbon.

Israeli media insisted that low turnout has been largely due to high costs of visiting Tel Aviv, but more than 150,000 people have signed petitions across Europe to boycott the concert.

Tel Aviv’s restaurants and bars have not received the wave of tourists they expected, and business is reportedly lower than at the same time last year. Thousands of tickets remain unsold despite the Eurovision finale coming up this Saturday.

Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster producing the event in Tel Aviv, is reportedly facing huge financial losses. Earlier this week, Kan published a video in a last-ditch attempt to lure more tourists. The video contains anti-Semitic and sexist language, such as for example “most of us are Jews but only some of us are greedy” and calling on tourists to “enjoy our lovely bitches.”

A Kan presenter appears in the video wearing an “I love the Iron Dome” T-shirt, referring to the Pindo-funded missile system which Israel claims can intercept rockets from Gaza. This blatant political and military messaging violates Eurovision rules. In further politicization, Kan offered free admission to Israelis who live within 25 miles from the Gaza Strip as a “sign of support and appreciation” after the flare-up between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions earlier this month. Israel killed more than 25 Palestinians in Gaza during the attack and destroyed dozens of commercial and residential buildings. Four people were killed in Israel as Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza responded to Israeli airstrikes with rockets. A ceasefire brought an end to the escalation before Eurovision, but many fear an Israeli attack after the contest finishes. Indeed, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy Michael Oren called for a major assault on Gaza after Eurovision:

Im Tirtzu held a party on the Tel Aviv University campus to celebrate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on Wednesday.

The group proclaimed:

We shall celebrate our victory over those who started the war, tried to destroy us, lost, and since then have tried repeatedly to destroy the state of Israel. Their day of mourning is our independence day, our freedom, our security and our future.

The group held a campus rally opposing commemoration of the Nakba:

Im Tirtzu members were not the only ones celebrating on Nakba Day. European diplomats held a dance party Wednesday on the site of al-Manshiyya, a once thriving neighborhood of Jaffa that was attacked and conquered by the Irgun in Apr 1948. The party was attended by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. French hip hop artist Onra and Finnish musician Jaakko Eino Kalevi announced their withdrawal from the line-up earlier this week. Palestinians in Gaza held an alternative to Eurovision earlier this week atop the rubble of a building destroyed by Israeli missiles earlier this month.

Along with music, the Gaza Message concert featured a speech by the mother of Razan al-Najjar, a medic who was shot and killed during the Great March of Return demonstrations last June.

Writer Ahmed Masoud commented that the alternative party was a mere 50 miles from Eurovision in Tel Aviv that Palestinians in Gaza are barred from attending. HRW’s Abier Almasri wrote from Gaza:

Many across Europe have come hundreds of miles to Israel for the festivities but, even though I live less than an hour’s drive away in the Gaza Strip, I’m not allowed to make the trip. I wish those attending Eurovision could visit me in Gaza and experience our reality, such as rolling power cuts that last most of the day, and the psychological torment of feeling trapped and unable to travel through no wrongdoing of your own.

More alternative concerts will be held in Bethlehem, London, Haifa and Dublin under the name Globalvision. Despite vigorous campaigning against Madonna’s planned performance at the Eurovision finale on Saturday, the pop star arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday crossing the international picket line set by Palestinian civil society. Defending her performance, Madonna said :

I will never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be. My heart breaks every time I hear about the innocent lives that are lost in this region. I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace.

However, Madonna is unwilling to do what Palestinians think it will take to break that cycle and bring peace: refuse to reward and whitewash Israel. This was Madonna’s first response to the #MadonnaDontGo campaign activists launched on social media months ago.

London Palestine Action released several songs this week urging Madonna to ditch the concert. One was a parody of Madonna’s track “Papa Don’t Preach” titled “Madonna Don’t Go”:

Another was a spoof of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”:

The pop star’s performance of two songs is set to cost $1m, to be paid for by Canadian-Israeli real estate tycoon and “self-appointed ambassador-at-large for Israel” Sylvan Adams. The Eurovision online broadcast was briefly hacked earlier this week and replaced by photoshopped images of explosions in Tel Aviv. It is unclear who hacked the website, but the Israeli broadcaster blamed Hamas.

Eurovision defends “Greater Israel” logo
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, May 16 2019

The organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest are defending their use of an official logo which appears to represent all of historic Palestine, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as part of Israel. In a letter to the Palestinian Authority foreign ministry on Wednesday, the European Broadcasting Union states that there was nothing intentional about the logo that depicts a stylized outline of historic Palestine – or “Greater Israel” as Zionists label it – including occupied territory that Israel is moving to annex in flagrant violation of international law. The EBU claims in its letter, a copy of which was obtained by EI:

This year’s logo, created by host broadcaster Kan, comprises three triangles which, when united, shine together to create a form complementing the slogan, ‘Dare to Dream.’ It takes inspiration from the stage design which also involves triangles on and above the stage.

PACBI accused Eurovision of trying to “wipe Palestinians off the map with its logo.”

Yet the EBU’s dismissive response to the PA foreign ministry is accompanied by a similarly nonchalant reply regarding concerns over other promotional materials that depict occupied territories as part of Israel. The PA foreign ministry had written to the European Broadcasting Union charging that “by accepting the occupation authorities’ contest propaganda material, which wipes off the State of Palestine from the map, the EBU is implicitly recognizing and supporting Israel’s illegal policies, which systematically violate international and human rights laws, including the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” The promotional materials include video “postcards” from Eurovision put out by Israeli state broadcaster Kan.

The video mash-up of the postcards includes an overhead shot of East Jerusalem, and of Syria’s Golan Heights, both occupied and illegally annexed by Israel. It also shows Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi dancing in occupied East Jerusalem with a view of the Dome of the Rock in the background. The European Broadcasting Union concedes in its letter that “one postcard includes drone shots” over Jerusalem, which clearly extend to the eastern part of the city, but asserts that “there is no intent with this material at politicizing a strictly cultural entertainment event.” This ignores how Israel has always used “culture” and “archaeology” as part of its overtly political efforts to legitimize its occupation and annexation of Palestinian land, especially in Jerusalem. The European Broadcasting Union acknowledges :

The rules of the contest state that ‘no messages promoting any political cause shall be allowed in the shows and within any official Eurovision Song Contest premises (at the venue, during the opening ceremony, the Eurovision village, the press center).

Yet the so-called Eurovision village built on top of the ruins of the ethnically cleansed Jaffa neighborhood of al-Manshiyya has been a venue for open political propaganda by Israeli leaders and EU governments. On Wednesday, EU embassies hosted a “Europe Day” celebration there with Pres Reuven Rivlin, using the Eurovision village to promote their agenda of ever-closer EU-Israel ties at the expense of Palestinians. EU ambassador Emanuele Giaufret used the supposedly non-political venue to declare:

The EU will remain an important partner for Israel.

This means in effect that Giaufret and the EU will continue to disregard Palestinian rights. The Israeli president spoke about Israeli cooperation with the EU on “cyber-security” and the EU’s Horizon 2020 science program which funds Israel’s war industry. As people danced the night away at an EU-sponsored rave, a few miles away two million Palestinians remained caged in the Gaza Strip, with dozens shot by Israeli snipers that very afternoon: Nakba Day.

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