From Bjork to BDS, Israel's Winning Eurovision #Chickensong Toys With Israel-haters

After Netta wins Eurovision, 'Toy' wins over the world with MeToo theme and irks critics: 'Israel currently occupying first position, and Palestine'

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Israel's Netta performing after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, May 12, 2018
Israel's Netta performing after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, May 12, 2018Credit: \ PEDRO NUNES/ REUTERS

Eurovision may have been created back in the 1950s to generate entente cordiale among nations – but that was clearly in the days before Twitter.

Netta Barzilai's triumph for Israel on Saturday was greeted by both love for the quirky performer (with the hashtag #Chickensong one of the year's more unlikely trending terms) and vitriol for Israel on the social media site.

Reactions in the mainstream media were more considered, and included praise for the #Metoo-inspired entry. The New York Times (no less) reported on the win with the headline "Netta Barzilai of Israel Wins Eurovision With a Chicken Dance," calling her song, "Toy," a "pop anthem about female independence, accompanied by her signature chicken dance."

British daily The Times, meanwhile, wrote, "Israel’s singer, Netta, wearing Minnie Mouse ears made out of her own hair, was clearly a fan of Björk. She made lots of chicken noises – 'Brrip, ouch, heh,' said the subtitles – and then growled a bit. People loved her, even though she is clearly the sort of woman who tells you how 'fun' and 'mad' she is. Woohoo!"

Fellow British paper The Guardian also made the Björk comparison, writing: "Israel’s Netta raised the trophy for her Girl Power anthem 'Toy,' with bonus chicken noises, Bjork-esque styling and lyrics like 'I’m taking my Pikachu home.

"The voting showed the huge disparity between what the juries loved (Austrian and German ballads, mostly), and what the public wanted to win (Cyprus’s Beyonce-style pop banger and Italy’s duet about the effects of war and terrorism). Netta’s win was loved by both – a triumph for something entirely different, which is exactly what Eurovision is all about. Tel Aviv 2019, anyone?"

A blog on the Jewish Journal's website made a different comparison – one between Barzilai's message and that of the country she was representing. In "Israel: We're Not Your Toy, You Stupid Haters," the author wrote: "Barzilai’s message is also Israel’s message to the world: We’re quirky, we’re not perfect, but we’re fearless and we love life. Oh, and one more thing for all you anti-Semites: We’re not your toy that you can easily abuse."

That message was doubtless written in response to the online tweeters who were not exactly dancing in the fountains at Israel's win. 

When Netta surged into the lead, Joe O'Connor tweeted: "Israel currently occupying first position, and Palestine." And from thereon in, any attempt to separate Eurovision and politics was as doomed as the British entry (which came 24th out of 26). 

Mike Sinkovich tweeted on inability of some left-wing critics to see beyond Barzilai's nationality.

Whether by admirers or haters, the social network was filled with parodies and memes lampooning the song...

Many tweeters were also unable to resist mentioning U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and left-wingers' reactions to Israel's victory...

Finally, in his review, the Daily Mail TV critic Jim Shelley brought it back to the music, writing: "The only thing we can all agree on is no one could say: ‘The real winner tonight was music.’

"To my mind only a very few people came out of it well: wind machine operators, dancers who used their training at mime school to upstage their nations’ singers, manufacturers of indoor fireballs, and above all whichever conglomerate supplied the Portuguese electricity board (the Russians probably)."