How political is the Eurovision Song Contest?
This week the Eurovision Song Contest is taking place in Tel Aviv under the motto "Dare to Dream". For months now pro-Palestinian activists and supporters of the anti-Israel BDS Movement have been calling for the event to be boycotted. Commentators take the opportunity to look at the political dimensions of the contest.
Israel wants to distract from its crimes
Pro-Palestinian activist Zoë Lawlor explains in thejournal.ie why we should be boycotting this year's ESC:
“Despite claims that the Eurovision is somehow 'apolitical' Israel has long used culture as a propaganda tool. From the far-right Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Barzilai 'Israel's greatest ambassador' to the promotion of illegal settlements to the millions pumped into ensuring Madonna performs - it is abundantly clear that Israel views this as a golden opportunity to whitewash and pinkwash its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people. (By pinkwashing I mean the way that Israel cynically uses gay rights to distract from its settler colonialism.)”
Politics not quality decides
This is hardly the first time there has been a political dimension to the ESC, Echo 24 points out:
“Politics have always played a role in the contest, alone through the voting system. Often the quality of an act was not what decided the outcome because political alliances have always been more important. The Scandinavians, the Balkan countries and the post-Soviet states stick together. The 'imperial' block of Great Britain, Ireland and Malta functions as such, and Turkey can rely on its diaspora in Germany. In 2016 Ukraine won - as a reaction to the occupation of Crimea. And when Europe does not have problems for a change, then bizarre creatures win, like the bearded Conchita Wurst in 2014.”
ESC brings people together
The ESC really connects people, Helsingin Sanomat writes approvingly:
“The Eurovision Song Contest is part of the spiritual integration of Europe that started in the 1950s. Even if the ESC is not a state project, the competition has always reflected the political situation of the day. The greatest shift came with the fall of the Wall in the middle of Europe. After that you could see on the basis of the contest whether Russia was moving toward the West or its relations with its neighbouring countries were deteriorating. Today there are lots of powers that are tearing Europe apart. But even if the tensions are clearly expressed in the songs, the competition still brings the countries together.”