Petition to boycott Israel’s ‘cultural whitewash’

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Protests have been taking place to convince Irish state broadcaster RTÉ to withdraw from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel over its attacks against the Palestinian people.

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign has called on nominated singer Sarah McTernan to pull out of the competition.

Spokeswoman Zoë Lawlor said: “Ireland has a proud tradition of standing with the oppressed and against injustice and we sincerely hope that Sarah McTernan will take this opportunity to stand on the right side of history by listening to the Palestinian and international calls for a boycott.

“It would be a principled stand for freedom, justice, equality and a show of solidarity and empathy with the oppressed.”

At its monthly meeting this week, Sligo County Council voted to call on RTÉ to boycott this years’ competition.

The motion notes that “the Eurovision will be openly used for political and militaristic propaganda purposes” and “to whitewash Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, its continued building of illegal colonial settlements in violation of international law and its human rights abuses and war crimes.”

In recent weeks, a UN Commission of Inquiry concluded that Israel likely committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in its attacks on unarmed protesters in Gaza last year.

Israeli forces killed 183 Palestinians, including 35 children, journalists and paramedics, people who were demonstrating for their legally guaranteed Right of Return to the homes they were ethnically cleansed from in 1948.

It has also been widely accused of using cultural events to “whitewash” actions aimed at the extermination of the Palestinian people.

As part of an international campaign, some 171 artists and celebrities in Sweden, the home of the most famous Eurovision winner Abba, have signed an open letter urging a boycott.

“Just a few days after the Israeli victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2018, Israel’s army killed 62 Palestinians who protested against their prison-like imprisonment in Gaza. Six of those murdered were children,” they wrote.

“At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his delight that Netta Barzilai, the winning singer, was the best ambassador for Israel in the world.”

Last month, campaigners congregated around a mock apartheid wall at the entrance to RTÉ and on the footbridge across the M11.

Ms Lawlor said, “While we congratulate Sarah McTernan on her selection, which is a great honour for her, we must unfortunately draw the her attention to the call from Palestinian artists, journalists, LGBTQIA+ and civil society organisations for artists of conscience to refuse to take part in the Eurovision in Israel due to that state’s ongoing brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.”

“We believe that for an Irish artist to perform just down the road from where Palestinian refugees are being shot down by Israeli snipers should be absolutely unconscionable.”

She added: “The notion that the Eurovision in Israel is ‘non political’ is simply not credible. In fact, Israel has made this year’s Eurovision explicitly militaristic and political in nature.

“This is especially so as the contestants will be expected to perform in front of 500 soldiers from the Israeli military, and they will be staying on a village built on the ethnically cleansed ruins of the Al-Manshiyya quarter of Jaffa whose indigenous residents are long term refugees forcibly exiled by Israel.

“Furthermore it has been reported that the Israeli state broadcaster will screen ‘visual postcards’ featuring locations in Israel’s colonial settlements in occupied territories in Palestine and Syria, and attempt to ‘normalise’ these grave violations of international law.”

* The petition for Ireland to withdraw from this year’s Eurovision can be found here.

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