Eurovision 2019: When Winning is Losing

BDS Australia asks Kate Miller-Heidke to boycott Eurovision held in Tel Aviv. (Photo: via Social Media)

By Margaret Cassar

Winning the 2019 Eurovision competition in Tel Aviv will be a poisoned chalice. The winners will not only take home a glass trophy but also the reputation of artwashing Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.

Are the glitter and glamour of one night and short term fame worth the life long stain of being associated with an apartheid state?

 Israel now fulfills the criteria for an apartheid State. Under Israeli law, and in its practical application, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are treated differently in almost every aspect of life. The world, including performing artists, can no longer ignore the 2005 call from the Palestinians for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

History remembers the artists who defied the boycott called against the apartheid regime of South Africa and played Sun City.

In April 1986, the United Nations Center Against Apartheid published a document, the Register of Entertainers, Actors and Others Who Have Performed in Apartheid South Africa. This register details the name of the artists, the month and year of the performance in South Africa and their chosen field. The performers who refused to play South Africa, for example, Bob Dylan, Gil Scott-Heron, and Peter Garrett were lauded in the same document.

In light of Israel’s status as an apartheid state and its violation of Palestinian human rights our national organization, BDS Australia has joined the 2018-2019 international campaign asking artists to boycott Eurovision if it is held in Tel Aviv.

The Australian campaign has also respectfully requested that our government-owned national multicultural broadcaster, SBS (Special Broadcasting Services), refuse to broadcast the event in May. SBS’s mission statement says:

“It seeks to provide a constantly fresh perspective on the cultural diversity of Australia and the world.”

This is at odds with its decision to broadcast Eurovision while Palestinians endure myriad tactics to destroy their culture including the cultural appropriation of their arts and crafts, the bombing of theaters, destruction of film archives and the imprisonment of their prominent arts practitioners.

BDS Australia has organized an ongoing social media campaign along with street actions in most of Australia’s capital cities. An on-line petition has attracted 2000 signatures and representations have been made to SBS and Sony but they have refused to engage with us on the issue.

Australia’s winner, Kate Miller-Heidke, has a sublime voice and is capable of writing songs showing great sensitivity to the pain of other people. Miller-Heidke now has the opportunity to educate herself about the situation in Palestine and speak up to end their suffering under a 70 year brutal military occupation. So far Ms. Miller-Heidke has not responded to our request to consider withdrawing from the competition if it is held in Israel.

As we have seen in Australia losers in this competition may be the real winners. The South Australian electro-pop duo, Electric Fields, was the hot favorite to win the Eurovision: Australia Decides competition. They came second. Almost immediately an article was published in South Australia’s pre-eminent cultural newspaper, The Adelaide Review, titled “In losing a spot in Eurovision titles Electric Fields may be the real winners”.

The article detailed their success in a number of downloads both in Australia and throughout Europe. The article also mentioned that they have avoided being associated with the controversy surrounding playing Tel Aviv. So the losing act has achieved high level exposure and sales but will not have their careers tainted by defying the boycott and playing for the apartheid state of Israel.

BDS Australia respectfully asks Kate Miller-Heidke to seriously balance the value of the short term splash of fame playing Tel Aviv will give to her career against a life-time reputation loss.

Margaret Cassar is a BDS Australia Committee Member, and Australian Friends of Palestine Association Executive Member. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. 

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