Opinion

If There’s an Occupation, There Shouldn’t Be Eurovision for Israel

Israel’s violation of both international law and the universal right to self-determination needs to be accompanied by real penalties from the international community

Tel Avivians celebrating Netta Barzilai's victory in the European Song Contest, May 12, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

There’s the question “what would have happened if” regarding the past, but this question should certainly be asked about current events, which people can control. The goal is to draw up desirable alternative scenarios that can be put into practice.

So in view of Netta Barzilai’s triumph in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, it’s worth asking what would have happened if millions of Israelis never got a chance to enjoy that great victory in Lisbon. Israel’s entry to the contest would have been blocked as part of an international cultural boycott due to the settlement policy and the oppression of the Palestinians.

It’s quite clear that preventing Israel’s participation in Eurovision wouldn’t have ended the occupation. Such a move, as well as a boycott and sanctions, may have even bolstered the forces of darkness – the nationalism and racism already prevailing – and united the majority of Israelis behind the messianic settlement project even more.

But Israel’s exclusion from Europe’s pop-culture celebration would presumably have cracked the anomaly of Israel’s denying an entire people civil and national rights. Undoubtedly, one of the main factors for Israeli colonialist rule’s endurance in the Palestinian occupied territories in the postcolonial era is that the settlement policy, which clearly violates both international law and the universal right to self-determination, isn’t accompanied by penalties from the international community.

As long as Israel’s occupation and enslavement of another nation continues and its settlements are applauded in the free world, Israel will see this as a green light to continue ruling millions of Palestinians directly and indirectly. Israel will continue to steal their land for settling civilians and advance the gradual ghettoization of the Palestinians behind the walls and fences mercilessly dissecting their land.

While ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is taking place in the Jordan Valley, as Ilana Hammerman described in Haaretz this month, Israel is embraced by Europe in Lisbon while continuing on its suicidal path to “binational” apartheid. In such a world, the end of the occupation cannot even be envisioned. But in a world where Israel is excluded from Eurovision to do some national soul-searching, at least one can start imagining this end.

The question is whether a handful of Israeli objectors to the occupation should arise, organize and call on the international community to put pressure on Israel. This would include boycotting the 2019 Eurovision contest, due to be held in Israel, to force it to evacuate its people from the occupied territories and recognize the Palestinian state in the 1967 borders.

It’s hard to give an unequivocal answer to this question. On the one hand, such a call would lead to the ostracizing of the occupation’s opponents, who would be branded self-righteous traitors committing anti-Semitism against themselves. They would be said to be detached from the people.

On the other hand, if they shun such radical action, despite the awareness that it might be the last resort, they would also be declared partners to treason – in the increasingly foreseeable future. Their accusers would be their own daughters and sons, who would probably be subjected to the horrors of the Israel-Palestine Balkanization and the painful collapse of the Zionist project.

That project, which was justified for the national liberation of a persecuted, homeless people, has become a project of thievery and enslavement of another nation. It has turned into a suicidal project that each day pulls the rug out from under the Jewish people in their country and throughout the world.