JTA — Britain’s chief rabbi defended Israel’s right to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in response to an open letter by British public figures demanding that the event be moved.
“Calls for the Eurovision Song Contest to be moved from Israel will ultimately harm, and not help, the cause of peace,” Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told The Daily Mail, in an interview published on Sunday. “I call upon those advocating for BDS to turn their efforts towards collaboration and reconciliation.”
The open letter calling for the BBC to refuse to participate in Eurovision unless the venue is changed was published last week in The Guardian.
“Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” the letter said.
Saying the competition is not political, the BBC on Wednesday rejected the call from dozens of British cultural figures. Among those who signed the letter were British musicians Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters; actors Julie Christie, Miriam Margolyes and Maxine Peake; directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh; and writers Caryl Churchill and A.L. Kennedy.
“The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance, and diversity, and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
Eurovision will take place in May in Tel Aviv, after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won last year’s contest with the song “Toy.” Over 40 countries are expected to participate, bringing many thousands of fans and worldwide exposure to the Jewish state.