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British stars urge BBC to boycott Eurovision in Israel

Israel is due to host the 2019 competition in Tel Aviv. [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 January, 2019

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The 50-strong coalition of British cultural superstars said the BBC should call for the annual competition to be moved over Israel's "systematic violation of Palestinian human rights".
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters were among dozens of figures from Britain's creative industries urging the BBC on Wednesday to oppose Israel hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

The 50-strong coalition, which also includes filmmaker Mike Leigh and author Yann Martel, said the broadcaster should "act on its principles" and call for the annual competition to be moved over Israel's "systematic violation of Palestinian human rights".

"The BBC is bound by its charter to 'champion freedom of expression'," the group stated in a letter published in The Guardian newspaper.

"It should act on its principles and press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed."

The largely European song competition, which dates back to the 1950s, is typically held in May in the winning country from the previous year.

In 2018 that was Israel and its commercial capital Tel Aviv was chosen to host this year's event.

The creatives' appeal was timed ahead of the BBC screening a domestic competition on 8 February to select the UK's entry.

"For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour," said the signatories, who also included musician Peter Gabriel alongside several architects and comedians.

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

"Much more in tune with 'inclusivity' is the outpouring of support across Europe for the Palestinian call for artists and broadcasters not to go to Tel Aviv," it said.

Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the petition.

"The Israeli-occupation is nothing to sing about! We salute the courage & integrity of all artists who do not want to be complicit in #IsraeliCrimes," she wrote on Twitter.

A BBC spokeswoman said Eurovision "is not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign" and that the broadcaster had no role in choosing the host. 

"We do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC's participation for political reasons," she added, noting it would be taking part.

The letter follows more than 60 LGBTQ organisations from nearly 20 countries across Europe and beyond on Tuesday urging its global communities to boycott this year's contest.

The signatories alleged Israel was using Eurovision "to distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians".

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