ISRAEL – BDS activists have called on artists and broadcasters to withdraw, saying that holding it in Tel Aviv amounted to “artwashing – whitewashing through arts” Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
“Everyone is excited in my team. I’m really happy to be here,” said Cypriot singer Tamta, the first artist to stroll the walkway flanked by visiting photographers and reporters.
The four members of Poland’s Tulia gave a quick sample of their folk singing style called “?piewokrzyk” or “scream singing” to the crowd’s enjoyment.
Concerns had been raised that the contest could be disrupted by a surge in cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. But a cease-fire that went into effect a week ago has been holding.
When Israel was selected last year to host the 2019 Eurovision finals, the internationally televised event was identified by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign as a target for its campaign to pressure governments, companies, performers and academics to isolate Israel.
Israel has mounted a counter-campaign, rebutting BDS attacks and accusing some supporters of being anti-Semitic or having ties to militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, allegations BDS leaders reject.
An Israeli ad for Eurovision that used a misogynistic term and an anti-Semitic trope to send up stereotypes about Israel has raised hackles among some viewers.
The 4-1/2 minute song video, posted online by Israel’s public broadcaster Kan on Friday, underscored worries about low attendance at the competition given security concerns and calls for a boycott.
Two singers are shown greeting a wide-eyed couple arriving at Tel Aviv’s airport with: “I know just what you heard – that it’s a land of occupation. But we have so much more than that!”
In an apparent spoof of the common local mispronunciation of “beaches”, a male singer urges: “Come and enjoy our lovely bitches.” On Israel’s often unwieldy demographics, he adds, beaming: “Most of us are Jews but only some of us are greedy.”
Some Israelis were left fuming or confused.
Shahaf Weisbein, an Israeli activist with the left-wing Women for Peace group, denounced the video as a “disgrace” that “whitewash(es) the apartheid reality” of Palestinians.
“It also includes an ugly anti-Semitic trope of Jewish ‘greed’,” she said in a statement.
Kan spokeswoman Gili Shemtov defended the video, saying it included “self-deprecating humour”.