ISRAEL – Looking ahead to 2019, NGO Monitor believes that the Eurovision Song Contest which is slated for May in Tel Aviv will be the biggest target for anti-Israeli campaigns next year.
While calls to boycott the competition have been ongoing – though largely unsuccessful – for months, NGO Monitor has expected them to increase next year, and for groups to target the event in different ways.
“There will be attempts to leverage the publicity of Eurovision to expand upon existing campaigns that attempt to delegitimize Israel and embarrass the Israeli government,” predicted Daniel Laufer, a spokesman for NGO Monitor. The organization expects groups “to misuse the platform of Eurovision – which is about culture and tolerance and communication between various different kinds of people – to instead exclude one country.”
In a report issued this week, NGO Monitor predicted that certain bodies will “attempt to provoke publicity by, for instance, staging stunts at Ben-Gurion Airport and at the event itself.”
Laufer said while the efforts appear to be from grassroots organizations, NGO Monitor believes much of the activity is well funded and organized by a variety of groups.
Earlier this year, several Israeli politicians expressed outrage after a leaked document from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to the Israeli government stated that Israel must accept all visitors for the contest regardless of their political views. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan – who has been key in working to block entry to BDS activists – called the EBU’s demands “ridiculous.”
The EBU told The Jerusalem Post that “this is a typical letter we send every year, regardless of country, to help ensure the smooth running of the Eurovision Song Contest.”
Still, many are concerned that the the demand could be exploited by those hoping to travel to Israel in order to disrupt the international competition.
During the 2018 Eurovision in Lisbon, two men rushed the stage while the UK’s SuRie was performing, and grabbed her microphone. One of them began shouting “Nazis of the UK media” and “we demand freedom before” they were removed from the stage.
An official at the Expo Tel Aviv Conference Center, which will host the 2019 competition, told the Post earlier this month that the EBU organizes its own security for the event.
“It’s very intense, they bring semitrailers, they screen and accredit everyone who works there,” said Iris Mazel, the vice president of sales and marking for Expo Tel Aviv.
With the competition five months away, is the Israeli government prepared to counter such activity?
“We have shared this information with many members of the Knesset and various government ministries as well as partner organizations and community leaders,” said Laufer, “and we hope that – as in previous years – they will be well prepared to confront the major challenges of 2019.”