Irish Broadcaster Will Reportedly Let Employees Boycott Eurovision in Israel

Announcement comes after broadcaster met with Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is calling for a boycott of the event

Netta Barzilai performs 'Toy' during the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018.
PEDRO NUNES/ REUTERS

Ireland's national broadcaster, RTÉ, will not sanction employees for refusing to travel to Israel to attend the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Irish news website The Journal reported on Sunday.

According to the report, the broadcaster's announcement came after its director general met with the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is calling for a boycott of Eurovision over "Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people." 

During the meeting, the organization reportedly presented a petition with over 11.000 signatures backing a boycott of Eurovision in Israel. The campaign's chairman, John Dorman, accused Israel of "put[ting] forward a pretty face to hide its ugly regime of settler colonialism, apartheid and brutal military occupation," and called on the broadcaster to "listen to the Irish people" and withdraw from Eurovision, the report said.

Representatives of the broadcaster were quoted as saying that RTÉ is "well aware that the Irish people are very concerned about and supportive of Palestinians." They added that the broadcaster "will not just be covering [the Eurovision] as an entertainment event and, bearing in mind everything that has been discussed, will be covering it more widely."

The decision to hold Eurovision in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem was announced in mid September after several months of controversy.

In September, the heads of the European Broadcasting Union presented several conditions to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the contest to be held in Israel, including that participants be allowed to enter the country regardless of their political opinions. 

Israel must also agree, the broadcasting union said, to allow the dress rehearsal to be held on Saturday and to allow complete freedom of the press and expression for all participants and delegations.

The letter with the conditions was reportedly sent after representatives of the broadcasting unit visited Israel. The chairman of the broadcasting union and the competition's producer demanded in the letter that Netanyahu state in writing that he agrees to the conditions.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on Netanyahu to reject the conditions. "I do not understand by what right the European Broadcasting Union has the audacity to come and make such claims and demand, contrary to the legislation of a democratic state, that a person should be granted entry to Israel even if he works all day and all night to harm Israel so that it is boycotted and isolated," Erdan said.