UNITED KINGDOM – British cultural figures including Vivienne Westwood, Peter Gabriel, and Mike Leigh are among those who have signed a letter calling on the BBC to cancel its coverage of this year’s Eurovision song contest because it is taking place in Israel. The competition is scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv in May. Israel earned the right to host the event by winning last year’s contest.
The letter, published in the Guardian, says that “Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.
“The BBC is bound by its charter to ‘champion freedom of expression.’ It should act on its principles and press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed,” the letter continues.
However, the BBC has countered the demand with a statement of its own, defending its commitment to airing the event.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign,” writes the BBC. “The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance, and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons. Because of this, we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC,” the British public broadcaster explains.
Other signatories of the letter include actors Julie Christie and Maxine Peake; musicians Wolf Alice and Roger Waters; and writers Caryl Churchill and AL Kennedy. Their letter follows another in September 2018 in which cultural figures from across Europe called on Eurovision’s organizers to “cancel Israel’s hosting of the contest altogether and move it to another country with a better human rights record.”
Waters is a leading figure in the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, trying to persuade many artists from performing in Israel, often unsuccessfully.