50 British artists urge BBC to lobby against Israel hosting Eurovision

Israel's singer Netta Barzilai aka Netta performs after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018.

A group of 50 British artists have signed a letter asking the BBC to lobby against Israel hosting Eurovision this May.

The letter, published in The Guardian on Tuesday (January 29), referenced the upcoming BBC show You Decide, in which the British public can vote for the act who will represent Britain in the competition.

“For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour,” read the letter, whose signatories included designer Vivienne Westwood, rock musician Roger Waters, director Ken Loach and actor Maxine Peake.

“When discrimination and exclusion are so deeply embedded, Eurovision 2019’s claim to celebrate diversity and inclusion must ring hollow.”

— Letter signed by 50 British artists

It continued: “They and the BBC should consider that You Decide is not a principle extended to the Palestinians, who cannot decide to remove Israel’s military occupation and live free of apartheid.”

“When discrimination and exclusion are so deeply embedded, Eurovision 2019’s claim to celebrate diversity and inclusion must ring hollow,” the letter added.

Israel is to host the ceremony this year after it had the winning entry in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest—“Toy” by singer Netta.

The BBC is a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the yearly competition and picked Tel Aviv as the location for the show over Jerusalem, where Eurovision was held in 1979 and 1999.

British rock legend Roger Waters, one of the signatories of a letter demanding the BBC opposed Israel hosting Eurovision, spraypaints a graffiti against Israel?s separation barrier surrounding the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Roger Waters was one of the signatories of the letter. (Rob Keeris/AFP/Getty)

“This does nothing to protect Palestinians from land theft, evictions, shootings, beatings and more by Israel’s security forces,” the letter read, referring to the choice of location.

The letter signatories asked the public broadcaster to press for Eurovision to be held in a country “where crimes against that freedom are not being committed” in virtue of the BBC charter championing freedom of expression.

BBC responds to letter asking to lobby against Israel hosting Eurovision

In a statement quoted in BBC News, the BBC said it was not appropriate “to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons” and specified that Eurovision was “not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign.”

A statement read: “The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons.

“Because of this we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”

The appeal from the 50 British cultural figures follow from other calls to boycott the contest because of its location.

On Thursday (January 24), British girl band The Tuts tweeted that they turned down the offer to compete to represent the UK at Eurovision because it’s being held in Israel.

“So, we got asked to enter EUROVISION 2019 to represent the UK but it’s being held in ISRAEL so that’s a NO from us!” the band wrote in a tweet that has since received nearly 3,000 replies, 6,400 retweets and 28,000 likes.

More than 60 LGBT+ groups across Europe, including the National LGBT committee of UK trade union Unison, signed a letter published on January 28 in support for Palestinian queer activists’ call to boycott this year’s Eurovision for as long as it’s held in Israel.