EVERY year the Eurovision Song Contest sees political feuds and friendships exposed like a Bucks Fizz girl’s knickers, writes Richard Ferrer.
Balkan, Nordic and former Soviet states all brazenly bloc vote. Russia could turn up with Rolf Harris playing Tie Me Kangaroo Down on a balalaika and still pocket douze points from Belarus.
A 2008 study by Dr Derek Gatherer, a man with clearly way too much time on his hands, found that only six countries even pretend to be impartial.
The voting might be better arranged than the music, but the benefits – bringing us all together by reminding us we’re far apart – outweigh the blocs.
However, this year, with Israel hosting, the mood music has turned sinister, with the emphasis less on middle of the road songs than middle of the east politics.
Anti-Israel protests were held outside the BBC’s Song For Europe show earlier this year. Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters and co have also gate-crashed the party, urging a boycott of the event unless it’s moved. “Eurovision may be light entertainment,” they say. “But it is not exempt from human rights considerations.”
You’d have to be a sociopath to side with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, so let’s give the baying mob the benefit of the doubt and take “human rights considerations” to mean Israel’s policies in the West Bank, where 400,000 settlers live on Palestinian territory, protected by an army that moved in after a defensive war against five Arab states. Fifty years on, Israeli society pays a heavy price for its continued presence and most Israelis know it. A 2017 poll showed only 37 per cent support for settlers.
So, good spot Roger. Israel does make and will continue making mistakes, what with it being slap bang in the middle of a really bad neighbourhood, hemmed in by angry Islamists who refuse to hold a song contest with it.
Roger’s concern wouldn’t seem a few bricks short of a wall if he didn’t seem comfortably numb to the unrelenting absence of human rights across the rest of the Middle East – from Cairo to the Khyber Pass – and, indeed, in countries who’ve recently hosted Eurovision.
Take 2004 hosts Turkey, which has occupied northern Cyprus for 25 years and killed 40,000 of its Kurdish citizens. President Erdogan rigged last year’s elections and put 160,000 political opponents behind bars.
When’s Turkey Apartheid Week, Roger?
Then there’s 2009 hosts Russia, where regional thug Vladimir Putin is rehanging the Iron Curtain by murdering his foes, including on British soil. It’s invaded Ukraine, hacked foreign elections and propped up Syria’s savage president, Bashar Assad. Reporters Without Borders puts it a lamentable 147th out of 168 countries for media freedom.
Where’s your Russia boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, Roger?
Then there’s 2012 hosts Azerbaijan, with obscene LGBT persecution, arbitrary arrests and torture of civilians and ban on outside media.
Freedom House rates the world’s most and least free countries, giving one point for most free and seven for least. Russia is 6.5; Azerbaijan 6.5; Turkey 5.5; Israel 2.
Having an obsessive compulsive disorder over a two while not giving a monkey’s about every wicked 6.5 has empirically nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with wanting one country among all others to disappear.
The hashtag hordes urging a Eurovision boycott hold a special place in their hard little hearts for the Jewish State. It is difficult not to think they target it to destroy it. And by difficult, I mean impossible.
I was in Tel Aviv on the night of Netta Barzilai’s victory last May. The thousands who rejoiced until sunrise in the city’s Rabin Square didn’t show up simply to jump up and down to a silly song. Something deeper than dancing brought them to the square. They were there because when making its mind up, Europe rejected all the BDS BS about Israeli Jews – outnumbered 60 to one by Arabs in the Middle East – being a unique pain in the world’s backside. Europe had seen through the lie and voted against it.
In May, when the hottest event in the arts calendar comes to town, Israelis will show the world the BDS that really defines them. Big hearts, diversity and sheer chutzpah.
You can bet your last Euro on it.
Richard Ferrer is editor of the UK Jewish News.