Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne Among 100 Artists Calling to Reject Boycott of Tel Aviv Eurovision

The international celebrities sign a statement in support of the song contest that will be held in Israel following BDS pressure on contestants to pull out

File photo: Actor Stephen Fry arrives for a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord Snowdon at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain April 2017.
\ HANNAH MCKAY/ REUTERS

Over 100 international artists and celebrities have signed a statement in support of the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, after BDS activists called for a boycott of the competition. The signatories include actor Stephen Fry, reality star Sharon Osbourne, artist Marina Abramovic, Kiss band member Gene Simmons and comedian Al Murray. The petition was created in response to the boycott, sanction and divest movement putting pressure on contestants to pull out over Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

“This year, approximately 200 million people will watch, visit and take part in the Eurovision song contest, celebrating music and the diversity of our different cultures,” said Ari Ingel, the director of Creative Community for Peace, which put together the petition. “The members of the entertainment industry who have signed this statement, along with the thousands of individuals who have endorsed its message, all believe in building bridges through music and the arts as a means to achieving greater understanding and peace in the region.”

As per Eurovision’s rules, the competition takes place in the country of the previous year’s winner. Israel’s Netta Barzilai won the 2018 song contest with her song “Toy.” Barzilai said on Monday that there was no place for boycotts of this year’s competition, which will begin on May 14 in Tel Aviv. She added that snubbing such a popular world event celebrating diversity would be akin to “spreading darkness.”

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The CCFP petition reads in part: “We believe that unifying events, such as singing competitions, are crucial to help bridge our cultural divides and bring people of all backgrounds together through their shared love of music.

“The annual Eurovision Song Contest embodies this unifying power. Every year, millions of people across Europe, and around the world, join together in a massive display of cultural exchange and celebration of music.

“Unfortunately, this year, the spirit of togetherness is under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.

“We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.”

Tel Aviv prepares for Eurovision 2019: A traffic circle in Jaffa, April 15, 2019.
Tel Aviv City Hall

Additional artists who signed the letter include French-Israeli singer Keren Ann, Spanish director Isabel Coixet, Hollywood producer Haim Saban, the head of Amazon Studios event series Sharon Tal Yguado and others. The CCFP notes that the signatories, many of them owners of large production companies, represent only their own personal opinion and not the organizations that they run or work for.