Want to Boycott Tel Aviv Eurovision? BDS Has an Alternative for You - in Bethlehem

Globalvision will take place at the same time as the Eurovision, featuring Palestinian, Israeli and international artists. One performer calls it a ‘nonviolent alternative focusing on unity and raising awareness’

Yasmin Zaher
Yasmin Zaher
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Singer Bashar Murad from East Jerusalem will be performing at Globalvision on May 18.
Singer Bashar Murad from East Jerusalem will be performing at Globalvision on May 18.Credit: David Corio
Yasmin Zaher
Yasmin Zaher

There is an alternative broadcast to Eurovision this Saturday: A rival “BDS” show will take place on four international stages — in Bethlehem, London, Haifa and Dublin — and feature renowned Palestinian, Israeli and international artists.

Globalvision calls itself a radically inclusive initiative “for artists and audiences to do it together, instead of only focusing on big names invested in maintaining the status quo.”

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 27

From the moment Netta Barzilai won last year’s Eurovision in a week that also saw the U.S. Embassy relocate to Jerusalem and the killing of 59 protesters on the Gaza Strip border, calls for competitors and broadcasters to boycott the song contest have been incessant. In the past year, more than 100,000 people, 100 LGBT groups, 100 Palestinian artists and 25 Israeli artists have called for a boycott. They scored one victory with the decision to relocate the contest from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, but had no success persuading any of the countries or competitors to withdraw.

Despite that, the organizers behind Globalvision still believe it has been a galvanizing time for the movement.

Eurovision in Tel Aviv targeted by protests

>> Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and rockets: The politics of Eurovision <<

Jo Tyabji from London says it is an opportunity for people “who hadn’t necessarily engaged with BDS before, other than not crossing the boycott line themselves,” to create something together.

The events are made possible by “supportive artists and individuals,” she says, with the likes of Brian Eno contributing a song. The biggest obstacle in their way has not been Israel but time and money: In contrast to the $30 million Eurovision spectacular in Tel Aviv, Globalvision promises to be a radical, DIY show.

Singer Bashar Murad, from East Jerusalem, says one of his missions in performing is to show that Israel is “pinkwashing” its crimes. As a gay Palestinian, he takes particular offense at Israel’s claim that it is the only democracy in the Middle East and that Palestinians mistreat women and gay people.

'Ana Zalameh' ('I Am A Man'), by Bashar Murad

“We live here and survive. Not everyone is accepting, but there are extremists everywhere,” he says. “There are many gay Palestinians — in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places — who go out and get together as a community.”

Murad says Eurovision at its core should be about equality and inclusiveness, that “it doesn’t matter what your nationality, race or sexual orientation is. In Palestine, it’s not the case. As we speak, the Eurovision rehearsals are happening while there are airstrikes in Gaza. It’s happening simultaneously. … You can’t take the competition out of context of the place in which it’s taking place.”

The Ramleh-based Rapper Mahmood Jrere, from the hip-hop trio Dam, will perform from his solo album “Rhythm of the Tribe” as part of Globalvision. Jrere tells Haaretz that Palestinian citizens of Israel don’t care about Eurovision, “we don’t feel that we belong, this is something that Israeli leaders helped achieve. Maybe one day we will have our own autonomy and we will have Eastvision, since where we in the Middle East.”

Jrere says that the “problem is not with Eurovision as an event, the problem is that this year the Eurovision will take place in a country that is practicing occupation and oppression.” Protests against Eurovision, he says, are a way for people to hear about the Palestinians’ plight, and an opportunity to tell “our story in any way that we can.” His message to Eurovision contestants already in Israel: “Try to visit the West Bank. It’s a life changing experience for anyone who believes in human rights.”

Last week, Iceland’s Eurovision representatives, the BDSM band Hatari, went on a tour of Hebron in the West Bank. Afterward, they gave an interview in which they called Israel an “apartheid state.”

Haifa-born, Berlin-based musician Rasha Nahas says she is performing at Globalvision because there’s a “certain responsibility” that comes with being a Palestinian artist. “Whatever you do, whenever you say Palestine it is immediately political. It’s occupation, it’s resistance,” she says.

In contrast to Israeli winner Barzilai’s repeated claims that neither she nor Eurovision are political, Nahas feels that, as a Palestinian artist, she is not afforded that privilege: “When there’s a Palestinian artist on stage, even a love song can be perceived as political.”

Rasha Nahas. “When there’s a Palestinian artist on stage, even a love song can be perceived as political.” Credit: Carolin Saage

The singer says her life experience directly affects her music, which affects her career and the opportunities she does or does not get. For Nahas, Globalvision is simply a “critical, radical, nonviolent alternative that is focusing on unity and raising awareness.”

Tyabji says the initiative defines what it means to be an artist and that it serves as a direct contrast to what Eurovision represents. The aim of being “an artist, whether you’re a singer or a filmmaker or writer, should be to connect,” she says. “How can you claim your show does that when you have to block your eyes and ears to the deliberate erasure of Palestinian identity and life?”

'The Fall' by Rasha Nahas

Even as the different Eurovision events were unfolding in Israel, pro-Palestinian protests already began. On Sunday, more than a dozen local and international activists sat bound and blindfolded outside the opening ceremony, blocking one of the main entrances for some 20 minutes. On Tuesday, a protest calling to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip took place in Tel Aviv’s central Habima Square.

The Eurovision tourist village, set up at Charles Clore park in Tel Aviv, will also be scene to political protests, with activists holding an event commemorating the Palestinian village of Manshiye which stood on the site until 1948. Finally, a large protest is scheduled to coincide with the Eurovision finals on Saturday night, in Tel Aviv’s main expo center.

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