Beyond Ideas

Eurovision isn't just a spectacle of music and performance; it's the world's most influential political stage. Let's use it to champion peace and justice, not abandon it for fleeting satisfaction.

Political opinion
Israel & Eurovision:
The case against boycotting eurovision

Written by G. Crawford

Why is this allowed?

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In a messy way, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) did suspend Russia’s participation in Eurovision due to the invasion of Ukraine. Many today advocate that EBU should also suspend Israel from Eurovision due to their operation in Gaza. Because EBU has rejected the calls to suspend Israel, there is a global movement to boycott Eurovision 2024. But is boycotting Eurovision the answer? Based on the history of politics in Eurovision, I believe boycotting Eurovision is shortsighted.

Let me get something clear first: I realize that the typical anti-boycott article is also a pro-Israel article. If you believe you are about to read a pro-Israel argument, you are wrong. I am wholeheartedly against any violence. And the ongoing genocide is abhorrent. I am firmly in support of seeing Netanyahu and his extreme far-right coalition and IDF leaders in the custody of the international court and be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.

So if my beliefs are that strong, why am I not in support of the global movement to boycott Eurovision? While I believe Israel, like Russia, should be permanently suspended from EBU, I do believe that boycotting Eurovision will hurt the cause for peace more than help it. Let me explain by pointing to the battle the LGBTQ+ community fought.

Consider how Eurovision has evolved: once branding itself as a 'family show' that banned overt LGBTQ+ representations, it now celebrates its status as 'the world’s biggest gay fest.' This transformation began in earnest when the EBU faced a pivotal moment with the duo t.A.T.u. Despite the existing ban, the presence of LGBTQ+ individuals on stage set the stage for change. Their participation challenged the EBU to reconsider its policies, demonstrating how engagement rather than boycott can lead to significant policy shifts.

However, the fight for LGBTQ+ equality wasn’t limited to EBU policies but extended to states. For example, in 2013, Finnish artist Krista Siegfrids used her Eurovision performance to send a message about same-sex marriage in Finland with her song "Marry Me," which ended with a same-sex kiss on stage. This act brought significant attention to the issue and became a symbol for marriage equality in the country.

The impact of such activism was further exemplified in 2014 when Austria won the contest with Conchita Wurst, an openly gay drag artist, shortly after Russia introduced anti-gay laws. This win showed how years of advocacy and engagement by LGBTQ+ communities could shift public sentiment in Europe and Eurovision. Today, because the LGBTQ+ community used the Eurovision platform for political activism, Eurovision went from "no gay allowed" to "the biggest gay fest" in the world. That is a substantial political change – and it is all because the LGBTQ community chose to fight instead of boycotting.

The pro-Palestinian movement needs to learn from the LGBTQ+ community. Rather than boycotting Eurovision, we should use the power of the platform to advocate for the removal and prosecution of Netanyahu and for a two-state solution where Palestinians can live a free life away from the apartheid regime imposed by the Netanyahu extremist regime.

It's important to clarify that we should advocate for justice and for the removal of the Israeli government, not advocate against Jews or Israelis in general. Israelis, generally speaking, are for peace and justice, even with their neighbors. The Israeli group Ping Pong, which displayed Syrian flags during their 2000 Eurovision performance, is a great example of the views many Israeli people hold. No one should be surprised that citizens of a country usually have a different view than their government. The same is true for Israel.

Eurovision's international reach can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about the conflict and advocating for justice and human rights. It can be used to pressure states to stop supporting Israel, and ideally, place sanctions on them. We can use it, like the LGBTQ community did, to defy the rules of Eurovision until they buckle and accept the worldwide pressure to remove Israel from the league of acceptable nations – at least until the Israeli population elects a leader with a moral compass.

We can leverage Eurovision to highlight the plight of Palestinians in creative and peaceful ways through performances, interviews, or social media engagement during the contest. Artists have found ways to include subtle messages, like when Israeli group Ping Pong displayed Syrian flags in their 2000 Eurovision performance, which enraged the Israeli government. These kinds of acts are powerful forms of activism that can have a significant impact.

What about boycotting businesses? Boycotting businesses that openly support Israel and the IDF, like Starbucks and McDonald's, is different because they aren't platforms that can be used to advocate for human rights. Eurovision, on the other hand, offers a unique platform that allows for messages of inclusion, peace, and justice.

By engaging with Eurovision, we have the chance to promote inclusivity and human rights on a global stage, just as the LGBTQ+ community successfully did. Working within Eurovision offers a unique opportunity to reach a global audience, making it a powerful tool for advocating for justice and change.

While Eurovision might fight this under their rule of being a non-political event, the reality is that Eurovision has never been non-political. It has always reflected political and cultural shifts, serving as a platform for those seeking to convey important messages to the world. Boycotting it would mean losing the most powerful non-state-controlled political platform in the world. Embrace it, just as the LGBTQ+ community did.

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