Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Eurovision: Icelandic band break rules to support Palestinian at Tel Aviv event

BDS called for a boycott of the Israeli hosted singing contest

TOPSHOT - A demonstrator wearing a mask, bearing the likeness of American singer Madonna, during a protest calling for a boycott of the ongoing 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 18, 2019. / AFP / Ahmad GHARABLI
TOPSHOT - A demonstrator wearing a mask, bearing the likeness of American singer Madonna, during a protest calling for a boycott of the ongoing 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 18, 2019. / AFP / Ahmad GHARABLI

A Palestinian flag briefly made its way to the Eurovision broadcast this year from Tel Aviv – before being promptly confiscated by Israeli security at the venue in Tel Aviv.

During the live broadcast of the annual kitsch singing competition on Saturday night, Iceland’s heavy metal music entry raised a small banner with the Palestinian flag towards the camera as their results were announced.

Politics is forbidden from the widely beloved annual show broadcasted live to millions of viewers. This year, the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement called for performers and fans not to attend the event, though no entries or high-profile sponsors or attendees did.

Activists, in turn, organized small actions and an alternative Palestinian music event called “Globalvision” to protest Israel’s treatments of the Palestinians. Simultaneous parties were planned for the West Bank city of Ramallah, the city of Haifa as well as London and Dublin.

The Israeli anti-occupation group “Breaking the Silence”, hosted Eurovision tours from Tel Aviv to Hebron led by soldiers who speak out about the abuses of the Israeli military. The group also erected a billboard on the road from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Tel Aviv that played on the official Eurovision slogan “Dare to Dream” with the words “Dare to Dream of Freedom” emblazoned over a composite image of Tel Aviv beachfront and an Israeli separation wall.

The Icelandic band, Hatari, describes itself as an anti-capitalist, dystopian art collective. Offstage, they had made the most pointed statements about Israel and the Palestinians of all 42 Eurovision contestants, such as telling reporters about the “apartheid” they saw when visiting the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

The European Broadcast Union, which airs the event, told Reuters the band could face consequences for violating the no-politics-on-stage rules. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, meanwhile, on Twitter dismissed the acts as “fig-leaf gestures of solidarity” as they still played in Israel.

Global mega-star Madonna also raised the ire of the BDS movement for performing Saturday night during the Tel Aviv broadcast. She chose to inject a little politics into her act as well, with dancers wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs walking off arm in arm in the end to melodramatic lyrics.

"Let's never underestimate the power of music to bring people together," Madonna said in brief, televised comments before she took the stage.

The Eurovision entry from the Netherland ultimately won the contest – crowning the country next year’s host in what will likely be a far less controversial event than Tel Aviv’s.

Updated: May 19, 2019 04:59 PM

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