International celebs slam calls for boycott of Eurovision in Israel

International celebs slam calls for boycott of Eurovision in Israel

Anti-Israel activists urging a boycott of the song contest ‘subverting the spirit of the contest,’ say signatories including Stephen Fry, Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons performing with KISS in 2010. (CC BY/Wikipedia)
Gene Simmons performing with KISS in 2010. (CC BY/Wikipedia)

A host of celebrities have denounced calls for a boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest set to be held in Tel Aviv next month.

The list of well-known signatories includes KISS’s frontman Gene Simmons, who is Israeli-American, British comedian and actor Stephen Fry, television host Sharon Osbourne, comedian Al Murray, and about 100 others.

An online petition supporting the group garnered over 15,000 signatures by Tuesday evening.

Calls for a boycott of the event, they wrote, were “an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.”

Music, the letter said, “transcends boundaries and brings people together.”

Stephen Fry. (‘Freedom Fry’/Matt Lee/Andrew Sampson/Wikimedia Commons)

It continued: “Unfortunately, this year, the spirit of togetherness is under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.”

The letter, an initiative of the Creative Community for Peace nonprofit, insists that “while we all may have differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the best path to peace, we all agree that a cultural boycott is not the answer.”

“This year, approximately 200 million people will watch, visit and take part in the Eurovision song contest, celebrating music and the diversity of our different cultures,” CCFP director Ari Ingel said in a statement.

“The members of the entertainment industry who have signed this statement, along with the thousands of individuals who have endorsed its message, all believe in building bridges through music and the arts as a means to achieving greater understanding and peace in the region.”

Israel will host the 2019 Eurovision after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai’s victory last year in Portugal with her #MeToo-inspired song “Toy,” a performance that included clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves. The competition will take place on May 14-18.

Israel’s singer Netta Barzilai celebrates with the trophy after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Francisco LEONG)

Following the win, there were calls from artists such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and British singer Peter Gabriel to move the competition to another country over Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Waters had also called on Madonna to abandon plans to perform at Eurovision in Tel Aviv.

Barzilai, 26, argued on Monday that calls for a boycott went against the purpose of the competition.

“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 told foreign journalists in Jerusalem.

“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.”

Asked whether she would perform for Palestinians, Barzilai said: “I wasn’t invited, but if my singing could solve problems, I would go.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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