Jerusalem Eurovision 2019 under threat due to possible boycott – report

Israeli sources say organizers concerned about venue, with activists in four countries calling for non-participation

Israel's Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision song contest in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Israel's Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision song contest in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Israel’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem next year is in doubt due to threats of boycotts by several of the countries expected to attend, according to a Channel 10 report.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) reportedly held secret meetings with Israel’s public broadcaster Kan and said its main concern about holding the event in the capital was that several countries may not participate, the report said.

Immediately after her victory, Israeli winner Netta Barzilai told the crowd, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Her message was echoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other politicians who insisted the event be held in the capital.

The Eurovision Song Contest on Tuesday raised questions about next year’s competition in Israel, with a tweet advising fans not to “go booking your flights just yet” as the time and location of the 2019 event had yet to be set.

According to Channel 10, the main concern of the organizers is that countries including Iceland, Ireland and Sweden could boycott the event due to the political situation.

In Iceland, over 25,000 people signed a petition demanding that the event be held elsewhere, “In view of the human rights abuses of Israel against the Palestinian people.” However, the national broadcaster said Iceland intends to take part in next year’s Eurovision song contest despite the petition.

Dublin Mayor Micheal Mac Donncha told Dublin Live news site that he would support an Irish boycott of the Israeli-hosted event. “I would support that, I don’t think we should send a representative,” he said.

The Left Party of Sweden, the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom and some within Britain’s Labour Party have called for their countries to boycott the song contest if it is held in Israel.

The organizers also had concerns about preparations and transportation for the event.

Immediately after Israel won, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox UTJ party wrote to Culture Minister Miri Regev demanding that the event not violate the Sabbath. The contest is traditionally held on a Saturday evening. The Friday evening jury show and Saturday afternoon rehearsals would involve Sabbath transgressions.

Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in two decades on May 12, as Barzilai triumphed with song “Toy.”

The other two Eurovision contests to be held in Israel took place at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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