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Israel claims 'bots' behind popular BDS campaign to boycott Eurovision backed by celebrities Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel claims 'bots' behind popular BDS campaign to boycott Eurovision backed by celebrities

Madonna has been urged not to play an intermission concert at Eurovision this year [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 May, 2019

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British celebrities have backed the campaign to boycott Eurovision 2019 out of solidarity with Palestinians, but Israel now claims the campaign is down to a 'bot network'.

Israel on Thursday claimed it had uncovered a "network" of bots promoting a boycott of the upcoming Israeli-hosted Eurovision song contest.

Activists supporting the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement often campaign for international performances in Israel to be cancelled and Eurovision has been no exception.

After Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won the 2018 Eurovision contest in Portugal, Palestinians and allies pledged to boycott the 2019 contest over the occupation of Palestine.

Activists have urged fans not to attend and contestants to skip the contest, which will be held on 18 May.

They have also called for pop legend Madonna to cancel her performance at the contest.

Madonna is set to perform two songs in an intermission at the contest. The cost of her performance, around $1 million, has reportedly been paid for by a Canadian billionaire who has financed pro-Israel, anti-boycott events in the past.

Twitter on Thursday confirmed it had suspended a "small network of accounts" in response to an Israeli allegation that bots - or fake Twitter accounts - were leading the campaign to boycott Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv.

BDS activists are "trying every deceptive method to attack Israel," claimed Israeli government minister Gilad Erdan.

Alia Malak, a member of the BDS campaign's steering committee, told AP that Erdan's ministry was "desperately spreading propaganda lies to cover up Israel's multiple Eurovision failures".

While Israel claims "bots" are behind the campaign, it has in fact been a widespread effort backed by well-known public figures.

Opposition to the Tel Aviv-hosted Eurovision song contest has been global, with pro-Palestine activists in the UK releasing a song to try and convince the rest of the world to stay away from the contest.

Celebrities and other public figures have also been among those to urge a boycott, with 50 British cultural superstars - including fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters - calling on the UK's public broadcaster to oppose Israel hosting the contest.

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