TEL AVIV (Reuters) – As ‘Eurovision Song Contest 2019’ banners go up across Tel Aviv, behind the glitz of the songfest is the latest manifestation of a bitter row between Israel and an international pro-Palestinian boycott movement.
When Israel was selected last year to host the 2019 Eurovision finals, the high-profile, 42-nation event was identified by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign as a target for its campaign to pressure governments, companies, performers and academics to isolate Israel.
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Even as Israeli workers erect stages and lighting rigs along Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean seafront, some fear that the live broadcasts of the May 14-18 event may be used by boycott activists to mount protests in front of millions watching live.
BDS has called on artists and broadcasters to withdraw from the event, arguing that holding it in Tel Aviv amounts to “artwashing – whitewashing through arts” Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
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The event’s local television hosts, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, said it does not know what to expect. But Israeli media reports have raised concerns that activists might try to disrupt the contest from the audience, or that a performer may mount a protest on-stage.
The competition – semi-finals followed by a final – will take place at the Expo Tel Aviv convention center, with a “fan zone” with big viewing screens at the beachfront Eurovision Village.
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Security costs are expected to account for 10 percent of the expenditure on the event by Kan. A spokeswoman for the broadcaster said she believed the figure was unusually high.
“There is something big here,” Tzahi Gavrieli, head of the Israeli government’s anti-BDS taskforce within the Strategic Affairs Ministry, told Reuters about the event. “It is a major brand, and there is definitely an attempt under way by the other side to take it down.”
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