Petition in Iceland: Cancel Eurovision in Israel Over 'Human Rights Violations'

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Netta Barzlai at the finals of the Eurovision song contest
Netta Barzilai performs "Toy" during the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. Credit: Francisco Leong/AFP

An online petition was initiated in Iceland on Tuesday calling for the cancellation of next year’s Eurovision song contest in Israel, arguing that holding the competition would whitewash Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Israel is due to host the high-profile annual international song competition after its performer at this year’s contest, Netta Barzilai, won the contest last Saturday evening in Lisbon, Portugal. As reported by the Reykjavik Grapevine website, the petition, which has been signed by more than 17,500 people, was initiated after news of the killing of dozens of Palestinians in demonstrations along the Gaza border in clashes with Israeli troops. Paul Oscar, an Icelandic pop star who represented his country in the 1997 Eurovision competition, has called on Icelandic performers to abstain from competing in the Eurovision competition if it is held in Israel.

According to the Reykjavik Grapevine’s translation, a statement accompanying the petition, which is addressed to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, states: “Following the human rights violation perpetuated by Israel towards the Palestinian nation, it is unethical for us to participate in such a glamorous competition like Eurovision in the shadow of Israel’s violence against their neighbors.”

Sema Erla Serdar, who heads the Solaris refugee assistance organization in Iceland, was quoted by the Grapevine website calling the situation “disgusting.” Another human rights activist, Thorunn Olafsdottir, called on Iceland’s musicians to refrain from participating in next year’s contest. But a political science professor at the University of Iceland, Baldur Thorhallsson, posted a Facebook comment on the issue, saying that Icelanders must not judge Israelis for their government’s decisions,the Reykjavik Grapevine reported.

The program director at the Icelandic Broadcasting Service, Skarp­hedinn Gudmunds­son, told the Icelandic daily Morgunbladid that it was almost certain that Iceland would participate next year, as it does every year. The Nordic country, which first competed in Eurovision in 1986, was only absent at two of the annual song contests since, in 1998 and 2002, and that was due to low rankings that its entries received.

Commenting on Israel’s hosting of the competition next year, Michael Segalov wrote on Britain’s Guardian newspaper website on Tuesday that he loves the Eurovision competition but, if it takes place in Jerusalem next year, there would be no escaping it becoming a political matter. Last weekend’s victory at the Eurovision competition is the fourth by Israel following the country’s singers’ top finish in 1978, 1979 and 1998.

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