Monty’s Eurovision Countdown 2024 Part 19 – Israel

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There’s probably been more written about Israel’s participation in Eurovision 2024 than about any other entry, and much of it before any of us had even heard a note of the song. Now might be a timely reminder that although we see Eurovision as synonymous to nationhood, it’s actually a competition between broadcasters, not governments, and that, ostensibly, is why Israel is here: broadcaster Kan deemed not to have rendered itself ineligible rather than any endorsement of the Israeli government’s actions. But Eurovision doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and this has led to a widespread call to boycott the Contest this year.

It’s a boycott I won’t be joining. I’ve never been convinced of the efficacy of boycotts generally, and most of the calls for this boycott feel aimed at the wrong targets.

This doesn’t mean at all that I’m impervious to the horrors unfolding in Israel and Palestine. I’ve resisted much public comment as I don’t see what I can helpfully add to the discourse, but I’m truly horrified. I’m horrified by October’s Hamas attacks, mass murder, rape, and sexual assault. I’m horrified by the fact that Israeli hostages remain captive and at risk. I’m horrified by the extent of Israel’s retaliation, the tens of thousands of civilians who are dead in Gaza, the millions displaced and the reluctance to admit humanitarian aid.

We all know it’s impossible to fully remove the politics from Eurovision but getting angry about Israel’s participation in a televised singing competition, and choosing not to watch it, to me achieves nothing and only diverts attention from where it should be; firmly on the humanitarian crisis unfolding before us. I’m choosing to support this by donating to international NGOs responding on the ground. I’m not prepared to let it suck the joy out of an event that’s ultimately established to unify, nor let it dominate the Eurovision discourse this year. You might feel differently to me, and so be it. Let’s respect one another’s approaches.

So, Israel is in, and like all other entries I will review the song, though I’m not especially drawn to it. It’s a dramatic ballad, and powerful if you like this style. Were it not for the political backdrop from which it’s clearly drawn inspiration I’d think it was overly sentimental. In light of Hamas’s attacks on Israel it’s certainly emotional, and in light of the extent of the Israeli Government’s chosen response I find it hard to isolate it from the emotions I feel about that too.

Whilst many viewers will opt not to engage, I think the song could be quite successful, as it will doubtless prompt a call to action from Israel’s wide diaspora to vote en masse from eligible countries; rarely has the success or failure of a Eurovision entry taken on such political significance.

Two pointsFor weeks it felt like both Kan and the EBU were engaged in a long dance towards disqualification by submitting songs with lyrics that breached the Contest’s rules so they would have to be deemed ineligible. An intervention from Israel’s president urging a rewrite ultimately broke the stalemate. Perhaps an easy opt-out might have been the more dignified outcome for the singer herself, as I genuinely fear the response she will get as she takes to the stage. Wherever you’re from Eurovision should be a highlight of your career but the wider geopolitical circumstances could make this a far more traumatic moment for the artist. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the trauma being experienced by Israeli and Palestinian citizens alike.

 

Photo: Ran Yehezkel/EBU

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Shai
Shai
1 month ago

Thank you Monty, for a ballanced article.

Someting rare to find these days, where people deemed to only mention 1 side of the story.