Eurovision 2019: The Hip Hop Beat of the Mideast Conflict

 

Two weeks ago, the organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest, made a startling announcement: The contest rules which have been in place for six decades should apply … unless, of course, a singer from Israel wins the contest …. and then, well, we need to rethink the matter.

Because an Israeli singer, Netta Barzilai, did in fact win the contest in Lisbon in mid-May, the European broadcasters had a dilemma: Follow the contest’s long-standing rules, or develop and apply a new, special set of rules that only apply to Israel.

To understand the controversy, and how it provides a view into the wider public diplomacy challenges that Israel faces each day, some background is needed.

The Eurovision Song Contest, colloquially known as Eurovision, is an international song competition held primarily among the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union.

While it predates American Idol by four and a half decades, American viewers who are unfamiliar with the European contest will instantly understand the format: Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio, and permits audience members to cast votes for songs from other countries in order to determine the winner. Over 40 countries are eligible to compete, drawing in 200 million viewers each year, and it is credited with catapulting such artists as Celine Dion and Abba into super-stardom.

Among the bundle of bragging rights that accompany a victory in the balloting, is the privilege to serve as host country for the next year’s contest. Understandably, this is a multi-million Euro prize for the music and tourism industries in the country that is lucky enough to field the winning artist and song.

And while Barzilai took the top honors in this year’s contest, and mindful of the rules, she even reprised the concluding blessing of the Passover Seder during her victory speech — “Next year in Jerusalem!” — contest organizers have publicly declared that Jerusalem might not be the site for the 2019 Contest. They took to social media to warn the millions of Eurovision fans not to “go booking your flights just yet, for official updates on where and when it’ll take place, keep an eye out for announcements on our official channels.”

During the collective head-scratching over the reason for this sudden and unexpected about-face on the regular practices, it was revealed that Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, and perhaps others, might boycott the contest if it was held in Jerusalem. Cyprus Daily reports that news of the snag in Jerusalem’s plans has raised the hopes among Cypriots that they will have the chance to parlay their second-place finish in this year’s contest into hosting the big event themselves next spring. Some Cypriots, fanning the discontent, believe that this year’s runner-up should enjoy the crown.

To my mind, this year’s contest, and the contretemps following Netta Barzilai’s victory, is a useful lens through which to view the broader Mideast conflict; on issues both large and small.

1. Israel is a modern, secular and thoroughly Western country: Netta Barzilai won the final round of balloting with a performance of the song “Toy;” a bouncy, electronic earworm of a tune that blends English lyrics with sprinkles of Japanese and Hebrew slang. In the song, she cries out to an overbearing lover that “I’m not your toy …. You stupid boy….” And, in an unselfconscious reference to her decidedly plus-size features, she declares “Look at me, I’m a beautiful creature…..” If there ever was a balladeer for the #MeToo movement, it is Netta.

2. The controversy over the contest venue is a barometer of the rising strength of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement and anti-Israel political correctness: For Israel’s critics, Netta is nothing short of a war criminal. The more fevered precincts of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement point out that during Barlzilai’s years of compulsory military service she served as a singer in the Navy Band — a troupe that toured Israel entertaining soldiers in combat units. As the critics reason, to joyfully sing to soldiers who later fight to secure Israel’s razor-thin borders, is unpardonable. Moreover, Barzilai’s donning of a corseted kimono for the final round of this year’s Eurovision contest, brands her as a cultural appropriator of the highest order.

It is important to note that Jerusalem has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest twice before — both in 1979 and 1999. Ireland and Sweden sent contestants to Jerusalem for both contests, and Iceland participated in the 1999 contest. Israel had security controls in the West Bank in 1979 and 1999, like today, and both of these contests predated the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip. For those reasons, what has changed, or worsened, in Israel, is not altogether clear. A better explanation for the recent changes of heart are shifts in the political climates of Iceland, Ireland, and Sweden.

3. It would be a blow to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement if the Eurovision contest proceeds as the Israelis hope: Revealing Jerusalem precisely as it is — a gleaming, modern, cosmopolitan, welcoming, pluralistic and diverse capital city — to 200 million television viewers across the globe is an advertisement that Israel’s enemies simply cannot abide. To showcase Jerusalem’s amenities, advances and cultural similarities to the capitals of Europe might be too much for them to bear.

One can only hope that the prayer Netta uttered when she was crowned is both a prophecy and a pledge: Bashana Haba’ah B’yerushalayim (Next Year in Jerusalem!) More than anyone first imagined, Netta’s fans will need those prayers.

There are 26 comments.

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  1. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Eric L. Lipman: Netta Barlzilai won the final round of balloting with performance of the song “Toy;” a bouncy, electronic ear worm of a tune that blends English lyrics with sprinkles of Japanese and Hebrew slang.

    Don’t forget the “bock bock” chicken noises.

    • #1
  2. rico Member
    rico
    @rico

    Eric L. Lipman: During the collective head-scratching over the reason for this sudden and unexpected about-face on the regular practices, it was revealed that Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, and perhaps others, might boycott the contest if it was held in Jerusalem.

    By “boycott” I assume that these countries plan to deprive their citizens the opportunity of participating. Perhaps their citizens don’t mind serving as political pawns for their governments. Perhaps they even support their governments’ anti-Zionism. Maybe some are envious of the freedom of expression that Israeli citizens enjoy.

    Addendum: After posting this it occurred to me that the governments might not be the responsible parties. It very well could be organizations tasked with the promotion of international cultural exchange that are inhibiting international cultural exchange.

    • #2
  3. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    A few countries may boycott Eurovision – so what?  They’ll be back next year. 

    What is probably making the organisers a little nervous is the possibility of local advertisers pulling back in face of a boycott or protest. 

    Here’s Eurovision’s television market share in Europe by country in 2016.  If they think they’ll lose market share even by just a few percentage points in the big markets like the US, or France or Germany that would make a difference to revenue.  Right?  Though arguably it might be made up by revenue from the US – this year.  How it plays out going forward – who knows?

    Also – I can’t see how any of this is bad for BDS.  A huge amount of public focus on Israel is useful to them because it’s easy to ride on that to talk about Palestine.  It’s disinterest in the region that’s hard for them to overcome. The ‘juxtapositions’ write themselves.  What if Gaza goes off again – will Israel bomb it during Eurovision?  How about the border with Lebanon?  West Bank? East Jerusalem protests?  It seems inevitably fraught.

    What’s ironic is that Eurovision is supposed to be ‘apolitical’.  Can’t do that yet in Israel-Palestine, because everything (citizenship, borders, capital city, language, the place of religion, which religion) is politically contested.

    Mood: intrigued.

     

    • #3
  4. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Well sure. What if Gaza “goes off” again, and the Israelis defend themselves? Or what if the Palestinians send  someone in to “go off” in a venue during the event? Or, given Israel’s ability to protect itself and its citizens and visitors, what if some (not all, of course—most are perfectly peaceful) of the legions of  sympathizers now dwelling as new-and-improved Europeans   “go off” and burn cars or murder Jewish schoolchildren or businesses? 

    After all, if the songfest is moved to some city that isn’t “political,” the Jewish citizens of Europe might be upset, but they won’t actually “go off.” Or maybe they will “go off,” in another sense, that is, emigrate, but that doesn’t seem to strike the Europeans as a problem, despite their claimed devotion to diversity.

    I wonder if this is the difference between ’79, ’99 and now?

     

     

     

     

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Eric L. Lipman: It would be a blow to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement if the Eurovision contest proceeds as the Israelis hope: Revealing Jerusalem precisely as it is — a gleaming, modern, cosmopolitan, welcoming, pluralistic and diverse capital city — to 200 million television viewers across the globe is an advertisement that Israel’s enemies simply cannot abide. To showcase Jerusalem’s amenities, advances and cultural similarities to the capitals of Europe might be too much for them to bear.

    They could also contrast Israel to the Palestinians who have impoverished their own people to make a political statement. But probably won’t . . .

    • #5
  6. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Honestly, if I were an investor in the show, I wouldn’t have Israel because of the hassle of terrorism and how far away Israel is. Also, not to be a jerk or anything, but Israel isn’t in Europe.

    • #6
  7. Eric L. Lipman Member
    Eric L. Lipman
    @judgelipman

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    [B]ut Israel isn’t in Europe….

    Neither is Australia; a fact that led to funny memes like this:

    • #7
  8. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Eric L. Lipman (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    [B]ut Israel isn’t in Europe….

    Neither is Australia; a fact that led to funny memes like this:

    Isn’t Australia next to Austria?

    • #8
  9. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Eric L. Lipman (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    [B]ut Israel isn’t in Europe….

    Neither is Australia; a fact that led to funny memes like this:

    Isn’t Australia next to Austria?

    On a galactic scale, yes.

     

    • #9
  10. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the distortions that the threat of Muslim violence has introduced into the political life of free societies.   There are “protesters,” young women, who set themselves up in front of the Vatican and mime raping themselves with crucifixes. Nothing happens to them. No one murders them on the spot, no Catholic bishop declares a fatwa and puts a price on their heads.

    Though he still had to go into hiding, Salman Rushdie’s freedom of speech was affirmed more strongly by American and European intellectuals  (e.g. P.E.N.) after Satanic Verses provoked riots and death threats…surely it can’t be coincidence that the Satanic Verses came out before Europe effectively imported millions of potential assassins and rioters? Je Suis Charlie Hebdo might actually have meant something in 1995. 

    One thing that one learns from studying Germany in the 1920s and 30s is that you don’t actually need to have a whole country full of nutcase fanatics. You only need to have enough  nutcase fanatics to make the rest feel like voicing an objection just isn’t worth the hassle of losing a job, or being denied that promotion, let alone being murdered.  

    There are, for example, a number of possible explanations for the silence of British people (including British Muslims) who could not have been ignorant of the goings-on in Rotherham. 

    1.) as a “community,” they approved of raping white, working-class children 2.) they were mortally afraid of being killed 3.) they didn’t approve, and they weren’t actually afraid of being killed, but the risk of hassle (social ostracism, loss of employment, accusations of disloyalty, boring bureaucratic or legal entanglements, whatever) outweighed their humanitarian concerns.  That last probably—sadly—accounts for most of the world’s unconscionable yet all-too-common silence.

    • #10
  11. Eric L. Lipman Member
    Eric L. Lipman
    @judgelipman

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    One thing that one learns from studying Germany in the 1920s and 30s is that you don’t actually need to have a whole country full of nutcase fanatics. You only need to have enough nutcase fanatics to make the rest feel like voicing an objection just isn’t worth the hassle of losing a job, or being denied that promotion, let alone being murdered.

    Among the most compelling reasons for a Jewish state is that, after two millennia of living dispersed among the nations of the world, without a state of their own, many Jews were eager to no longer live at sufferance upon the good opinion of the majorities around them.

    • #11
  12. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    One thing that one learns from studying Germany in the 1920s and 30s is that you don’t actually need to have a whole country full of nutcase fanatics. You only need to have enough nutcase fanatics to make the rest feel like voicing an objection just isn’t worth the hassle of losing a job, or being denied that promotion, let alone being murdered.

    I can’t remember the term for it, but the same thing happened in reverse to push the USSR over the edge – lots of people had “secret beliefs” that the system was screwed up, but nobody would say so.  When people finally found themselves free to speak their minds  they found that the majority agreed with them and all hell broke loose.

    Sooner or later people are going to start popping off at the SJWs in our midst, and it’s going to get very ugly very fast, unless they can push off the day of reckoning until enough of the younger generation has been thoroughly indoctrinated to not even think those thoughts. 

    Appendix A of Orwell’s 1984 is instructive on the use of language restrictions to control peoples thoughts.

    • #12
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    Appendix A of Orwell’s 1984 is instructive on the use of language restrictions to control peoples thoughts.

    One thing that Orwell didn’t get was how free societies with a first amendment can impose speech codes through social pressure that are similar in spirit to the USSR. It is amazing how restrictive our culture had become under President Obama. It seems to be slowly opening up after the election of Trump. 

    • #13
  14. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    It seems to be slowly opening up after the election of Trump. 

    Does it?

     

    • #14
  15. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    It seems to be slowly opening up after the election of Trump.

    Does it?

    Well, the intellectual dark web seems to indicate that even some lefties are sick of the enforced silence of political correctness.

    • #15
  16. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark
    @CharlesMark

    Eurovision used to be a big deal in Ireland- particularly back in the days when we won it on a regular basis. It was a running joke that RTÉ, the national broadcaster took to deliberately sending subpar entrants in the hope of avoiding the expense of hosting it the following year! I completely lost interest ages ago and didn’t watch it this year although I watched a recording of it when I heard Israel won. It was s big deal given that a Europe-wide popular vote was key to the victory. That was one in the eye for BDS!

    The contest appears to have become a major event for LGBT people and Ireland’s (useless) entry this year had a strong gay theme. Now Israel is famously gay-friendly so it would ordinarily be an ideal venue. Sadly, the likelihood is that the venue will be changed to please people who despise homosexuals and hang them or throw them off roofs (and the supporters of those people). 

    • #16
  17. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Charles Mark (View Comment):

    Eurovision used to be a big deal in Ireland- particularly back in the days when we won it on a regular basis. It was a running joke that RTÉ, the national broadcaster took to deliberately sending subpar entrants in the hope of avoiding the expense of hosting it the following year! I completely lost interest ages ago and didn’t watch it this year although I watched a recording of it when I heard Israel won. It was s big deal given that a Europe-wide popular vote was key to the victory. That was one in the eye for BDS!

    The contest appears to have become a major event for LGBT people and Ireland’s (useless) entry this year had a strong gay theme. Now Israel is famously gay-friendly so it would ordinarily be an ideal venue. Sadly, the likelihood is that the venue will be changed to please people who despise homosexuals and hang them or throw them off roofs (and the supporters of those people).

    Oy vey. (Why is the cognitive dissonance not obvious—indeed, torturous?—to the left??)

    • #17
  18. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Whenever this sort of thing occurs, call them what they are:  anti-Semites. And keep calling them anti-Semites. Don’t give an inch. 

    • #18
  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Zafar (View Comment):
    If they think they’ll lose market share even by just a few percentage points in the big markets like the US, or France or Germany that would make a difference to revenue. Right? Though arguably it might be made up by revenue from the US – this year.

    That’s a point often missed in these corporate calculations. A decision that angers some customers attracts and fosters loyalty in others. It’s a mistake to consider only the loudest customers and consumers.

    But these decisions are often political, rather than financial.

    • #19
  20. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Are they actually thinking of not hosting it in Israel at all or is it just having it in Jerusalem that is the sticking point? 

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Are they actually thinking of not hosting it in Israel at all or is it just having it in Jerusalem that is the sticking point?

    Probably yes and yes. And more.

    • #21
  22. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    There are, for example, a number of possible explanations for the silence of British people (including British Muslims) who could not have been ignorant of the goings-on in Rotherham. 

    1.) as a “community,” they approved of raping white, working-class children 2.) they were mortally afraid of being killed 3.) they didn’t approve, and they weren’t actually afraid of being killed, but the risk of hassle (social ostracism, loss of employment, accusations of disloyalty, boring bureaucratic or legal entanglements, whatever) outweighed their humanitarian concerns. That last probably—sadly—accounts for most of the world’s unconscionable yet all-too-common silence.

    Well, I suspect, based on surveys of pro-Sharia sentiment across the Muslim world and countries with notable Muslim populations, its #1 and #2.  That is, as a community, they approved of raping white, working-class children, and were mortally afraid of being killed for not believing so.

    • #22
  23. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Charles Mark (View Comment):

    Eurovision used to be a big deal in Ireland- particularly back in the days when we won it on a regular basis. It was a running joke that RTÉ, the national broadcaster took to deliberately sending subpar entrants in the hope of avoiding the expense of hosting it the following year! I completely lost interest ages ago and didn’t watch it this year although I watched a recording of it when I heard Israel won. It was s big deal given that a Europe-wide popular vote was key to the victory. That was one in the eye for BDS!

    The contest appears to have become a major event for LGBT people and Ireland’s (useless) entry this year had a strong gay theme. Now Israel is famously gay-friendly so it would ordinarily be an ideal venue. Sadly, the likelihood is that the venue will be changed to please people who despise homosexuals and hang them or throw them off roofs (and the supporters of those people).

    Oy vey. (Why is the cognitive dissonance not obvious—indeed, torturous?—to the left??)

    The left has already escaped that  cognitive dissonance with the term “pinkwashing.” 

    • #23
  24. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    The left has already escaped that cognitive dissonance with the term “pinkwashing.” 

    Sigh. That’s a depressing piece. 

    So…Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews are “fiercely homophobic” but Muslims are welcoming, open-minded and don’t judge. 

    Wikkipedia sayeth:

    “Homosexual intercourse is illegal under sharia law, though the prescribed penalties differ from one school of jurisprudence to another. For example, some Muslim-majority countries impose the death penalty for acts perceived as sodomy and homosexual activities: Iran,[215] Saudi Arabia,[216] and in other Muslim-majority countries such as EgyptIraq, and the Indonesian province of Aceh,[99][217][218] same-sex sexual acts are illegal,[219] and LGBT people regularly face violence and discrimination.[220]

    More than four in ten British Muslims want at least parts of sharia law enforced in Britain. 

     

    • #24
  25. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    By the way, do European citizens have the right to decide whether and how immigration into Europe continues? Do they get to have a say in who comes to Europe to live? Do Europeans have the right to a homeland that embodies and preserves their distinctive culture? 

    Are the Japanese horrible barbarians for refusing to allow people from Yemen and Sudan to come to Japan and settle there? 

    Colonialism: the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

    Why aren’t  immigrants to Europe who do not assimilate, and who instead import their own cultures and traditions, and build their own houses of worship, all the while exploiting native resources considered “colonists” just as much as, say, the Pilgrims were?

     

    • #25
  26. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    By the way, do European citizens have the right to decide whether and how immigration into Europe continues? Do they get to have a say in who comes to Europe to live? Do Europeans have the right to a homeland that embodies and preserves their distinctive culture?

    Are the Japanese horrible barbarians for refusing to allow people from Yemen and Sudan to come to Japan and settle there?

    Colonialism: the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

    Why aren’t immigrants to Europe who do not assimilate, and who instead import their own cultures and traditions, and build their own houses of worship, all the while exploiting native resources considered “colonists” just as much as, say, the Pilgrims were?

     

    Intersectionality. On which I’m drafting a piece.  Seems there has already been a collision  in the intersection of [Muslim, Asian, Cis-gender woman] and [atheist, white, trans-woman]. Who do you think will sort to the top of the victimocracy? 

    • #26

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