Israel said Thursday it had uncovered a network of bots and fake Twitter accounts urging a boycott of the upcoming Israeli-hosted Eurovision song contest.
The Strategic Affairs Ministry said the Palestinian-led movement that promotes boycotts against Israel is behind the effort.
Twitter confirmed it suspended “a small network of accounts” in response to the Israeli complaint.
Supporters of the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led campaign advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, have been calling on artists to pull out of this year’s contest because of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
Iceland’s representative has said it would be “absurd” to participate, and boycott activists recently renewed their call for the country to withdraw completely from the event.
Singer Netta Barzilai’s win last year with the catchy pop anthem “Toy” earned Israel the honor of hosting the 2019 Eurovision competition later this month.
Thousands of tourists are expected to arrive in Tel Aviv for the campy, gay-friendly spectacle. The semifinals will be held on May 14 and 16 followed by the Grand Final on May 18.
Israeli government minister Gilad Erdan said BDS activists “are trying every deceptive method to attack Israel.”
Alia Malak, a member of the BDS campaign’s steering committee, accused Erdan’s ministry of “desperately spreading propaganda lies to cover up Israel’s multiple Eurovision failures.”
Activists had targeted Barzilai even before last year’s win, launching a campaign calling on voters to award her zero points. She said over the past year she has encountered angry protests across Europe as well.
“I personally think it is bullying to artists. If you have a demonstration, go and make it where it should be. My business isn’t representing. My business is music, and my business is spreading light and love,” she said this week.
“Being on the same stage no matter what your religion is — your ethnicity, your color — from all these countries, all these cultures combined together, this is a festival of light,” she said.
“For people to boycott light is spreading darkness, is doing the exact opposite thing, and that’s why I think they might be going against their own beliefs.”
Israel boasts one of the Eurovision’s most rabid fan bases. Fans flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in front of City Hall, with some euphorically jumping into a public fountain, after Barzilai was announced the winner last year in Portugal.
The City Hall building was lit up to spell “Toy” and electronic signs throughout the city congratulated her.
Earlier this week, Twitter launched a special Eurovision emoji and hashtag to celebrate the song contest.
— NoCamels – Israeli Tech and Innovation News (@NoCamels) May 1, 2019
AFP contributed to this report.