A billboard protesting Israel's occupation of the West Bank was put up Sunday on the road leading from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Tel Aviv, two days ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest, by anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence.
The billboard features on one half of it the Tel Aviv Eurovision official slogan, "Dare to dream," with the city's coastline in the background, and the words "of freedom" on its second half, with the West Bank separation wall and an Israeli military watch tower in the background.
The organization, which gathers testimonies by Israeli soldiers who were stationed in the West Bank and Gaza, runs regular tours to the Palestinian city of Hebron. The organization said dozens of people already booked places for its tours in the upcoming week.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is tasked with combatting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, called Breaking the Silence a "despicable hate organization," saying "it once again finds the time to spread lies against the State of Israel."
"Here's a tip," Erdan added, "Instead of inciting against the pioneering settlers in the City of the Patriarchs, take tourists on an introductory tour of the dreadful human rights violations by the Hamas government in Gaza, or a tour to get an impression of the Palestinian Authority, which insists on sponsoring terrorists and praising despicable murderers."
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The online protest against holding the song contest in Israel has intensified over the past few days, but failed so far to score any major achievements.
"The Palestine Project," a Facebook page with over 75,000 followers, has been consistently posting messages arguing that Eurovision is being used to whitewash the Israeli occupation. It noted Expo Tel Aviv, where the contest is held, stands on the lands of Palestinian village Sheikh Munis, conquered by Israeli forces in the 1948 war.
Israel has launched a PR campaign to counter calls for a boycott, using Google ads which refer to the boycott but lead to a glossy website extolling Israel. Internet advertisements on Google featuring the words "boycott" and "Eurovision" encourage searchers to click on a link that, in fact, leads them to a pro-Israel website which – in a play on the BDS initials – extols Israel as "Beautiful, Diverse, Sensational".
The advertisement makes no obvious mention of the Israeli government. But the Strategic Affairs Ministry - which runs the government's anti-BDS taskforce – confirmed to Reuters that it was behind the campaign "to promote the positive aspects" of Israel.