Tags: eurovision | israel | iceland | ireland

Eurovision Is Meant to Bring People Together

Eurovision Is Meant to Bring People Together
Israel's Netta Barzilai (C) performs on stage a festive welcome concert in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 14, 2018, after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal. Netta Barzilai beat 25 other contestants with her up-tempo song "Toy," whose lyrics were inspired by the #MeToo movement. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 04:40 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Israel won Eurovision, the international song festival, this year.

There's a cardinal rule: the winner of Eurovision hosts the next year's competition.

Because Israel won, that means next year Eurovision will be held in Jerusalem.

Eurovision is the hottest music festival/competition in the world. Almost everyone other than Americans, certainly all Europeans, knows what it is and can sing every winning number. Winners are rock stars. The festival was created in 1956 and since then 52 different countries have participated in the competition. It is the longest running music competition in the world and is watched by hundreds of millions of people — not unlike the World Cup, another international best-selling competition almost unknown to Americans.

One of Eurovision's most attractive features for music aficionados is that every single person has an equal voice in choosing the winner. Viewers can vote while enjoying Eurovision from the comfort of their home. The one catch is that you cannot vote for your own country's song.

Winning contestants from previous competitions include Abba for Sweden, Buzz Fix for the UK and Celine Dion for Switzerland. Even countries that do not compete televise the event, specifically China.

But when it comes to anything Israel related, nothing is simple. Politics have entered the Eurovision sphere — and the situation is getting ugly.

Iceland, Sweden, and Ireland have announced that they will not attend next year's competition in Jerusalem. They have chosen to boycott a cultural event whose very purpose — much like international sports, is to bring different people from different countries together.

Iceland has gathered 25,000 names on a petition to make certain that their country does not compete in Jerusalem. This is such a big deal that Israel's consul general met with the heads of Iceland's Eurovision group to implore them to participate.

Iceland is a tiny country of only 350,000 people, so 25,000 signatures on a petition is a significant sum. The insult to Israel is heightened because many Israelis feel a closeness to the small country. Iceland has become a desired travel destination for many Israelis — and Israelis love to travel. Countless hikers have explored the country after completing their service in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Travel between the countries is so popular that WOW, a new, private, rock-bottom priced airline based in Iceland offers service from NYC to Tel Aviv through Iceland with a very short layover and no extra charge for longer stopovers.

Ireland is a perennial Eurovision favorite, they have won the competition seven times. They also have a long tradition of being critical of Israel. In fact, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Sinn Fein councilor Michaell Mac Donncha, has been at the forefront of the call to boycott the Jerusalem location.

This is significant! The Mayor is a member of Sinn Fein — and Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA. Michael Mac Donncha is also very active in Ireland Palestine Solidarity. In April Israel announced that they were going to block the Lord Mayor from entering the country. In a twist of irony the Lord Mayor tweeted that he was already in Israel. Passport control at Ben Gurion Airport mistakenly thought his title was his name so Michael Mac Donncha was admitted to Israel.

BDS, the anti-Israel pro-Palestinian organization calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, is working hard to get other countries to join the anti-Jerusalem bandwagon. BDS supporters are all filled with hate, their attitudes fueled by virulent anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Israel sentiment.

The importance of cultural exchange and knowledge and interaction is that it promotes dialogue and removes bias and hatred.

Eurovision, like the World Cup and the Olympics, tries to bridge gaps and bring people to an understanding that music and sport not only stand above politics, they also unify the world.

Some nations, like some people, just can't get beyond their own biases and their ugly hatred. That's a shame.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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Israel won Eurovision, the international song festival, this year.
eurovision, israel, iceland, ireland
Wednesday, 30 May 2018 04:40 PM
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