From top: This week’s Europvision semi final running order. The competition begins tomorrow in Tel Aviv, Israel; Shane Heneghan
The contest that is known for getting far too political will be especially political this year after the victory of one of the least commercially successful Eurovision winners of the past few years from Netta Barzilai of Israel.
When it became apparent that Israel would host this year, the calls to boycott Eurovision were instant. Sinn Féin, Sweden’s left Party and the Australian Greens were all vocal.
A petition in Iceland very quickly gained 23,000 signatures- equivalent to 5% of the population.
The BDS movement hopes people and countries alike will skip this years shin dig and are busy setting up alternative events across the continent.
This is not the first time Israel has hosted the event and not the first time there have been calls for a boycott.
Indeed, Yugoslavia and Turkey refused to send representatives to Jerusalem in 1979 in the politically charged atmosphere just a few years after the Yom Kippur war.
This time around, no nation is boycotting for political reasons. Though Ukraine is staying at home- for reason of internal not external politics.
Local media reports indicate that the numbers travelling to this years contest are way down compared to previous years- though this may have as much to do with geography and the high cost of Tel Aviv as much as politics.
Recently, a group of international celebrities ranging from Marina Abramovic to Stephen Fry signed a letter slamming the boycott and asking for “all our friends and colleagues around the world to express their support for an exciting and successful Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv”.
Their endorsement is crowned by Israeli TV’s booking of Madonna for the interval act. The material girl in the Michael Flatley slot is a Kabbalist and has always been strong advocate for Israel.
Despite the aforementioned petition, Iceland will still participate next week with one of this year’s more eye catching acts.
The BDSM clad metal band Hatari believe “we can bring this critical conversation or make awareness of the situation here with our message and with our agenda-setting powers and hopefully we will make awareness to the world through Eurovision.”
Their song – “Hatrið mun sigra” loosely translates to Hatred will prevail. Take from that what you will.
But perhaps the participant to watch is Italy’s Mahmoud. The half-Egyptian has already caused a stir in Salvini‘s Italy with his song Soldi when it won the San Remo festival. It has since broken to the top of the charts and is among the favourites to win the whole thing.
The song has lyrics in Arabic and whilst not political a victory for this song would not be seen as without significance.
For clarity, Palestine is currently ineligible to take part in Eurovision as their broadcaster lacks EBU membership.
Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan