Israel gets ‘key’ to Eurovision, BBC rejects calls to boycott

February 1, 2019 by JNS
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At a ceremony in Tel Aviv this week, Israel officially received the “keys” to the Eurovision Song competition for 2019.

Lisbon Deputy Mayor Duarte Cordeiro hands Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (left) the official Eurovision key chain at the City Exchange Ceremony for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in Tel Aviv in mid-May, Jan. 28, 2019. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

The “insignia handover,” symbolized with the passing of a large decorated key chain, took place between Deputy Mayor of Lisbon Duarte Cordeiro and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Lisbon hosted the 2018 Eurovision contest.

“I wish the greatest success to the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 and to this magnificent city,” Cordeiro said at the ceremony. “I’m sure it will be a huge party.”

Huldai noted the appropriateness of the Eurovision slogan, “Dare to Dream,” for Tel Aviv, saying “Tel Aviv is the startup city in the startup nation,” and said his city was working to “make sure that the Eurovision this year will be the best show on earth in the coolest city in the world.”

“We hope we’re going to win again this year,” said Huldai. “And, as the Jewish saying goes: Next year in Jerusalem.”

On Tuesday, a letter signed by 51 cultural figures, including Vivienne Westwood and Peter Gabriel, circulated calling on the BBC to boycott the Eurovision because it will be hosted in Israel.

The letter said Israel is guilty for “systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” including “land theft, evictions, shootings, beatings and more by Israel’s security forces.”

However, a BBC spokesperson said the network would participate in the event, despite pressure.

“The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity, and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons. Because of this, we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC,” said the spokesperson.

A similar letter calling for a Guardian boycott of the Eurovision was signed by in September by 140 figures, including Ken Loach and Roger Waters.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2019 is scheduled to be held at Expo Tel Aviv, the city’s convention centre. The show will consist of two semi-finals on May 14 and May 16, with the final on May 18.

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