A Palestinian singer performs on the rubble of a building that was recently destroyed by Israeli air strikes. (Reuters: Mohammed Salem)
Not far from the kitschy glitz of Eurovision, Palestinian musicians are holding rival song contests on the rubble-strewn streets of Gaza.
- Palestinians have set up rival song contests in Gaza to protest against Eurovision
- Musicians, including Madonna, say they have faced pressure to withdraw from the competition
- On Tuesday, Palestinian musicians performed at the site of Israeli airstrikes
A series of protest events, one of them dubbed Gazavision, offer a stark contrast — comparing life inside the Gaza blockade to the glittery euro-centric stage just 70 kilometres away in Tel Aviv.
Since it was announced Israel would host this year’s competition, Palestinians and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Australia (BDS Australia) movement have called on musicians and broadcasters to shun the event.
Madonna faced calls to withdraw from her Eurovision performance, as did Australia’s entrant, Kate Miller-Heidke.
“I’m pretty sure all the artists have been experiencing the same pressures, the same kind of twitter extremism,” she told SBS News in Tel Aviv.
“Everyone feels conflicted by it, everyone feels under pressure.”
Gazavision was set up by the Palestinian youth group We Are Not Numbers as an alternative to celebrate emerging musical talent in Gaza.
The event showcases six Palestinian artists and asks people to cast their vote for their favourite in a show of defiance against what the group characterises as Israel’s “campaign to whitewash and distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians”.
Tweet: Ghada Shoman, 24, has been singing for #Palestine since 2012. She has performed in over a hundred events and once anchored a show of her own, where she was the main singer on stage.
One of the artists, 24-year-old Ghada Shoman, explained how her performances had been live-streamed into Jerusalem in the past.
“My family is originally from Jerusalem, a home I’ve never been to,” she told We Are Not Numbers.
“There was sad irony in it … My voice made it home before my feet could.”
Another competing event, Globalvision, will be broadcast online at the same time as Eurovision, using the motto “Dare to Dream Together”.
On Tuesday, Palestinian musicians performed at the site of Israeli airstrikes.
Hilmi Dabbagh, a Palestinian refugee and co-founder of BDS Australia, described the rival performances as an effort “to raise awareness about the injustice of our cause”.
In the case of Gazavision, he said, the point was to “look at the asymmetry” of the competing events.
“They are singing on rubble in contrast to the fancy modern complex [in Tel Aviv],” he said.
He told the ABC he had strong feelings about maintaining Palestinian culture.
“The theft is happening on all fronts and that’s definitely painful, no-one can take that lightly,” he said.
“We are going to resist it, we are going to move forward with our Palestinian culture.”
Song contest controversy
Kate Miller-Heidke said she and other musicians had faced pressure to withdraw from Eurovision. (AP: Sebastian Scheiner)
The song contest comes at a sensitive time for the region, with Israel celebrating its independence and Palestinians remembering “Nabka” — or the “catastrophe” that expelled and displaced them in 1948.
This time last year 60 people were killed by Israeli forces, and in the past fortnight fighting in Gaza escalated, with the Israeli Prime Minister vowing “massive strikes” against Hamas.
Jeremy Leibler, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told the ABC attempts to boycott or disrupt Eurovision had been “wholly unsuccessful”.
“Any boycott of cultural events is completely unproductive and will do nothing to help either side resolve the conflict,” he said.
He said tens of thousands of tourists would experience the “real Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East” and the “free and open culture of Tel Aviv to all people of all races or gender”.
Netta from Israel celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018. (AP: Armando Franca)
Bruce Knobloch, campaign organiser at BDS Australia, said the movement was not anti-Semitic but that it called on western governments to stop supporting Israel’s activities and urged consumers and investors to boycott corporations “that benefit from the occupation”.
“We are not anti-Jewish,” he said.
“There are a lot of Jewish people who are part of the BDS movement. They see it isn’t about religion, it’s about equal human rights.”