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Palestinians protest as Israel Eurovision final kicks off Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Palestinians protest as Israel Eurovision final kicks off

The choice of Tel Aviv as host has stoked months of controversy. [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 May, 2019

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Dozens of demonstrators gathered in Jaffa on Saturday to protest the Israeli Eurovision song contest, as singers from across the world prepared to take part in the final.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered in Jaffa near Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest the Israeli Eurovision song contest, as singers from across the world prepared to take part in the final.

The choice of Tel Aviv as host has stoked months of controversy geopolitically, while pop stars sympathetic to the rival Israeli and Palestinian causes have taken very different positions on the contest.

In Jaffa, a port city south of Tel Aviv, around 60 demonstrators boarded a boat to listen to speakers criticise Israel's hosting of the competition.

The event was organised by Zochrot, or remembrance, an Israeli NGO which works to educate Israeli society about the Nakba, when over 750,000 Palestinians were displaced during the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948.

The group calls for Palestinian refugees to have the right of return to lands which they were expelled from.

Umar al-Ghubari, the tour guide, said that Eurovision fans were due to celebrate near where the pre-1948 Palestinian neighbourhood al-Manshiyya was destroyed 71 years ago.

"The Israelis don't want to tell this story. They want to show everything as normal," said Ghubari.

The demonstration took place near a beach area sealed off for the "Eurovision Village", where spectators will gather to watch the live event.

Some protesters wore t-shirts reading "Eurovision: I’m not your Toy", a reference to the song "Toy" by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, who won last year's competition.

Others carried a banner which read "Return Vision", in reference to the Nakba.

Madonna will perform her hit "Like a Prayer", accompanied by a 35-strong choir, and the world premiere of the song "Future" from her forthcoming album, organisers said.

The 60-year-old pop diva has said she was determined to perform at the finals but her participation brought a storm of protest from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

BDS has for years been pushing for investors and artists to shun Israel over its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories, and led the calls for a boycott of this year's Eurovision. 

Eurovision organisers have said security has been stepped up inside the venue in case activists try to disrupt the live event.

Israel had extensively deployed its Iron Dome aerial defence system in advance of the contest, local media said.

Palestinians are planning a simultaneous alternative event dubbed "Globalvision".

Parties are set to take place in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Haifa in northern Israel - home to a significant Arab population - and London and Dublin.  

Anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence erected a billboard in Israel with the slogan "Dare to Dream of Freedom," playing on the 2019 contest's slogan "Dare to Dream".

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