Eurovision 2019'Israel is incredible, it throws the best party ever'

Netta Barzilai on BDS: ‘When you boycott light, you spread darkness’

Israel’s Eurovision champion tells BBC the contest is about building bridges, celebrating diversity

Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, who won the 2018 Eurovision song contest, in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, who won the 2018 Eurovision song contest, in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai slammed calls to boycott this year’s contest being held in Israel, saying in a BBC interview on Thursday, “When you boycott light, you spread darkness.”

The contest is typically kept separate from politics, but anti-Israel protesters have called on Eurovision organizers to pull the contest out of Israel and for participants to abstain from performing in the Jewish state, an approach the Israeli singer described as counterproductive.

“Boycotting is preventing light from being spread and when you boycott light, you spread darkness, that is what I think. I believe in a dialogue, I believe in protest, let’s have it, but boycotting isn’t the answer,” Barzilai told the BBC.

Barzilai won the song contest in 2018 with her massively popular ode to female empowerment, “Toy,” giving Israel hosting rights this year. The contest will take place in May in Tel Aviv.

The competition is expected to draw tens of thousands of people and massive media attention to Israel. Anti-Israel protesters have zeroed in on the contest as a target for their boycott demands.

In Thursday’s interview, Barzilai highlighted Eurovision’s history in her argument against a boycott, describing how the contest was established to foster unity in a Europe devastated by World War II.

“It’s all about building bridges, it’s all about celebrating diversity, being all these people from all these places on the same stage and saying ‘hey, we’re all the same and we’re celebrating all these ethnicities and all these kinds and types of music,'” Barzilai said.

“It’s the magical music festival and you can do whatever you want and you can bring whatever you want and it’s amazing. It shouldn’t be political, it’s a disaster if it will be,” she said.

Winner of the Eurovision 2018 song contest Netta Barzilai seen as she arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 14, 2018. (Flash90)

The exuberant Barzilai also included a call to visit the country for the contest, saying “Israel is incredible, it throws the best party ever and people should come.”

Barzilai has embraced her role as a feminist role model and cites the #MeToo movement as an inspiration, but has resisted making any overtly political forays.

Last month, a cadre of British cultural figures called on the BBC to support moving the contest elsewhere due to “Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.” The network rejected the petition, saying Eurovision was “not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign.”

Also last month, anti-Israel protesters briefly interrupted a Eurovision song contest qualifying round in France as Barzilai stood on stage.

A broadcast of the concert showed four or five protesters rush the stage, with at least one person holding a sign reading “No to Eurovision 2019 in Israel,” before being swiftly escorted away.

Last week, Barzilai released her follow-up single to “Toy,” a pop anthem reflecting on her newfound fame called “Bassa Sababa.”

The video, reportedly the most expensive Israeli music video ever made, has racked up over four million views in less than a week.

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