Increased Clashes Between Israel And Palestine Ahead Of Eurovision Song Contest

Renewed violence in Gaza has left six Palestinians and one Israeli civilian dead after an Israeli airstrike hit a Turkish news agency in Gaza. The recent violence comes as one the most intense exchanges between the two factions in recent years.

Increased tensions in the region have led to numerous clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants. This has led to more than 24 hours of heavy fire, with Israeli forces responding to rockets being launched from the Gaza Strip with an extensive airstrike campaign. One Israeli civilian and six Palestinians, including two militants, have been killed. Amongst the casualties was a pregnant woman and her 14 year old niece.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to launch more “massive strikes” on Gaza and move tanks, artillery and infantry to the edge of the enclave – clearly escalating conflict with Hamas groups, whom Israel has held accountable for all activity on the Gaza strip thus far. Netanyahu has said the military mobilisation was necessary to help protect Israel from further rocket attacks. In an attempt to quell Hamas groups into submission before Israel is put on the world stage. However, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has condemned Israel’s attack on the Turkish news agency in Gaza,  further stating that he “will continue to tell the world of the atrocities in Gaza.”

This latest round of violence was triggered on Friday May 3rd , when a Palestinian sniper opened fire on Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers. The violence erupted as Israel prepared to host the recently concluded Eurovision song contest. Many have seen this move as an opportunity for the State of Israel to legitimise its capital city by hosting the event in Jerusalem, the highly contested capital of Israel.

Israel hosting this year’s Eurovision has led to numerous artists calling for a boycott such as: Lana Del Ray, Shakira and Lorde all of which have cancelled upcoming events in Israel. Bashar Murad, a Palestinian pop singer, music video director, and long-term fan of Eurovision, commented that:  “Eurovision is supposed to be about bringing people together, it’s almost helping Israel to keep oppressing and keep occupying and it’s almost encouraging it[sic].”

Speaking on Israel’s hosting of Eurovision, Communications Director of Jewish Voice for Peace,  Granate Kim, said: “having the hosting rights would be a huge PR coup for Israel to whitewash its horrific war crimes and rampant racist law making. But already it has run into problems. The Israelis wanted to hold the event in Jerusalem, but had to back down from shamelessly trying to assert their illegal claim over the city.”

This reporter concurs that the hosting of Eurovision in Israel is a distraction to the atrocities currently occurring in the region, and serves to legitimise the current expansion of the State – a process gaining increasing traction following President Trump’s declaration of Israel’s sovereignty.

BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) a group fighting to uphold the principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity, argue Israel is using the Eurovision song contest as a propaganda apparatus, showing their wealth and similarity to western culture in order to distract from the war crimes committed by the State against Palestinian civilians.

Indeed, in a country currently involved in widespread violence it is highly insensitive to put on such fanfare. For instance, after Israel’s Eurovision victory last year, 62 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, and that evening a celebratory performance was held in Tel-Aviv in which singer Barzilai said “we have a reason to be happy.” This reinforces Israels policy of sweeping matters under the rug.  However, a tacky backing track can never drown out the daily cries of suffering within the region, no matter how loud.

Eurovision is the world’s largest music event, attracting nearly 200 million TV viewers every year. It is an international celebration of cultural diversity and global unit- values which are not upheld by Israel.

Therefore, until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice and equal rights it would be insensitive, bordering on the ironic, to host a celebration of music and the bond between nations, in a nation which deprives millions of this same thing.

As such, this reporter holds that Eurovision should be hosted in another country and the fanfare the occasion affords should not be bestowed on a nation who contradicts its very principles. Most importantly, we must not allow the Eurovision contest to be used as a political tool to legitimise a country’s abhorrent crimes.