Signatories include Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Ken Loach

British cultural figures call on BBC to urge relocating Eurovision from Israel

Dozens of musicians, writers, and artists sign letter saying ‘systematic violation of Palestinian human rights’ does not jibe with spirit of song contest

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A street advertisement for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2019, seen on a central street in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2019. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)
A street advertisement for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2019, seen on a central street in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2019. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)

Dozens of British cultural figures have signed a letter calling on the UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC, to push for relocating the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest from Israel to another country.

The letter, which was printed in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, cited Israel’s human rights record in the West Bank as the reason.

“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,” read the letter, which was sent ahead of the UK choosing its entry for the international song contest.

“The BBC is bound by its charter to ‘champion freedom of expression,'” the letter continued. “It should act on its principles and press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed.

“The European Broadcasting Union chose Tel Aviv as the venue over occupied Jerusalem – but this does nothing to protect Palestinians from land theft, evictions, shootings, beatings and more by Israel’s security forces,” it said.

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.

Pro-Palestinian activists regularly call for shunning Israel, ostensibly as a way to pressure the Jewish state to change its treatment of the Palestinians. Critics allege that many boycott supporters actually seek Israel’s destruction.

The British entry for the contest will be chosen during a public vote competition, titled “You Decide,” which is to be broadcast by the BBC 2 channel on February 8.

“For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honor,” the letter said. “They and the BBC should consider that You Decide is not a principle extended to the Palestinians, who cannot ‘decide’ to remove Israel’s military occupation and live free of apartheid.”

The letter also criticized Israel’s nation-state law, passed last July, which enshrines Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

“Even Palestinians with Israeli citizenship were told in the nation-state law passed last year that only Jews have the ‘right to national self-determination,'” the artists noted.

Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in two decades on May 12, 2018, when Netta Barzilai snagged first place with the women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”

Barzilai’s win meant Israel will host this year’s Eurovision competition, which is scheduled for May 14-18 in Tel Aviv. Over 40 countries are expected to participate, bringing many thousands of fans and worldwide exposure to the Jewish state.

In September 2018 the Guardian published a letter by some 140 artists who called for a boycott of the Eurovision because it was being held in Israel.

Times of Israel staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

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