Opinion

Eurovision Must Be Held in Jerusalem

Israelis who want to move the contest from their capital are actually asking people not to notice the things that are being done in their name

Asaf Friedman
Asaf Friedman
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Israel's Netta performs after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018
Israel's Netta performs after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018 Credit: REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
Asaf Friedman
Asaf Friedman

Benjamin Netanyahu is a prime minister without values. He may hold on to some values, but as far as results go he’s willing to forgo them without batting an eye in order to hold on to power and maintain public support. There is no other way of explaining his relinquishing the holding of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem.

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How can it be that a man who alarmed people by stating that “Peres will divide Jerusalem,” who declares from every platform that he will never make any territorial concessions in the city, who was willing to set the Middle East aflame in order to transfer the U.S. Embassy and obtain international recognition of the eternal capital of Israel concedes something so elementary?

Netanyahu was spooked by the furious public reaction to the cancellation of the friendly soccer match between Israel and Argentina. He immediately perceived that the public was angry that its meeting with national icon Leo Messi was taken from it.

Netanyahu put all the blame on Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and realized that cancellation of Eurovision would be an edict the public, and the Knesset seats it provides, would not tolerate. From here the road was short to clarifying that the government would not insist on holding the song contest in Jerusalem.

Eurovision must take place in Jerusalem. If the competition’s management accepts Israel, it is no different than any other country. Israel won the contest and is entitled to host it anywhere it wants. It would be inconceivable for Portugal to host it anywhere but in Lisbon, or for Poland not to hold it in Warsaw. 

If the European Broadcasting Union thinks that Israel’s actions, the political situation here or the reality of its capital are problematic and deserving of punishment – let it remove us from the competition and deal with the results, with the reactions and their significance. This holds true sevenfold for Israelis wishing to move the contest to Tel Aviv. 

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It represents Israelis no less, and possibly more than Tel Aviv. Its security tensions, the conflict, the occupation, the violence and segregation reflect this country no less, and probably much more than the gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. The tension between religious and secular sectors is much more Israeli than the dancers accompanying singer Netta Barzilai are; religious and ultra-nationalist fanaticism are Israeli features no less than liberalism and openness.

If we can learn anything from the cancellation of the soccer game and the folding of the Netanyahu government on the Eurovision venue, it is that international boycotts are an effective tool, especially when it passes from the field of small indie players to the field of Messi and song contests that swell the national chest. The two cases also showed that there is a price the average Israeli is not happy to pay in exchange for a united and eternal capital city. 

Israelis who want to move the Eurovision contest from their capital are actually asking people not to notice the things that are being done in their name. They wish to lead normal but dual lives without paying a price. They wish to escape their Israeliness without confronting it and repairing it.