Eurovision, a music contest that has become a global event, will be held in Israel this year. Many people have called for artists and viewers to boycott the contest in an attempt to draw attention to Israel’s abuses against the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. As tensions rise, along with the death count, what could be the beginnings of another strike against Gaza might get swept aside due to the contest’s popularity.
I am not going to say whether people should boycott the contest, although I do commend those who do so on moral grounds and in solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is a particularly divisive topic that has seen a number of celebrities hit back against calls to boycott the event. An open letter, signed by over 100 such stars, states that the event should be used as a means to connect people through culture. The BDS movement, in opposition, that it is being used to ‘whitewash’ Israel’s image.
While I do believe culture is a powerful tool to bring people together, there is no doubt that this event will be a massive image boost for the country marred with over 70 years of colonial abuses against the Palestinians. We can talk about building bridges all we like, but it will mean nothing if, not 100km from Tel Aviv, bombs are being dropped on a people who have been all but forgotten by most and demonised by the rest.
It is not the call for a boycott that I wish to speak about, however. What I want this piece to convey is the potential for this event to drag media attention away from increasing tensions near the Gaza Strip. Not to say people can’t report on or read about Eurovision, but it is obvious which of the two topics will be comparatively ignored. What bits of news does reach us through mainstream sources is also quite misleading.
The New York Times has put out a number of articles and opinion pieces in the past week or two blaming Hamas for the escalation, and one blamed Hamas for Gaza having sewage ridden coastlines instead of beach resorts like other Mediterranean countries. I’m sure the Palestinians would love to have a beach resort, but what is the point if their neighbour is just going to demolish it with naval strikes? Funny how all of these conflicts start with Hamas-initiated violence, as though the preceding days, let alone decades, are non-existent.
For over a year now, Gaza’s residents have been participating in protests and marches called the Great March of Return, named for their right of return to their homes pre-Nakba. Over 100 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured, many by live fire and including medics and journalists, while there have been almost no casualties or injuries on the other side. The violence has escalated in the last few weeks, with ‘rockets’ (when compared to Israel’s military technology they hardly deserve the name) launched by Hamas.
These are the actions that Israel is using as pretext to amplify their border presence, and that the media has seemingly picked as the starting point of history. Little, if any, mention is given to the fact that the rockets were retaliatory measures. Justified? Murky, but Israel has yet again responded disproportionately against a region it has strangled and blockaded for years.
When Eurovision begins next week, it will be interesting to see how coverage of Gaza proceeds. Large events that garner this much publicity have been used by various governments to slip by controversial actions before, and the media, particularly commercial news and across social media, take care to promote the right stories.
Culture is at the heart of any society – there’s a sad irony when people talk about using it to connect people while defending a country that denies it to others.
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