UK’s Eurovision entrant refuses to withdraw in protest at Israel’s inclusion

The UK’s entrant in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Olly Alexander, has refused to withdraw in protest at Israel’s inclusion.

He says he and other participants are hoping to use the platform it provides to come together and call for peace in Gaza.

Here’s his statement on X:

He was responding to the following letter, created by Queers for Palestine and signed by more than 450 members of the LGBTQ+ artistic community, calling for him to boycott the ESC:

Dear Olly Alexander,

We write to you as fellow queers, artists, and fans, who are deeply distressed about the continued inclusion of Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest in the current context of its ongoing genocidal assault on Palestinians in Gaza and attacks on Palestinians across their homeland.

We share the vision of queer joy and abundance you’ve offered through your music, and share your belief in collective liberation for all. In this spirit, we ask you to heed the Palestinian call to withdraw from Eurovision. By refusing to expel Israel from the competition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is providing cultural cover and endorsement for the catastrophic violence that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians. There can be no party with a state committing apartheid and genocide.

As we know you are aware, we are now in the sixth month of Israel’s genocidal campaign against the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza, who are subject to intense and relentless attacks. More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed, and over a million have been displaced. According to Oxfam and major international human rights organisations, Israel is using starvation as a weapon against Palestinians in Gaza, with its siege causing acute shortages of food, water and essential medicines. Already famine has killed at least 17 Palestinian children. Shamefully, the UK government remains deeply complicit in Israel’s attacks.

At a time when accountability is so urgently needed, Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision would enable and cover up its war crimes and crimes against humanity. Understanding the propaganda value of its participation in the contest to artwash its ongoing genocide, Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, stated “it’s important for Israel to appear in Eurovision.”

In January, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on the EBU to ban Israel from this year’s contest. But the EBU has refused, so Palestinians are now calling on all artists to withdraw from performing in Eurovision.

We salute you for using your platform to speak up against Israel’s genocide and in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. As the letter you’ve signed read, “we, as LGBTQIA+ people, cannot let others weaponise our struggles for freedom on the basis of sexuality and gender identity to justify systemic occupation and genocide of a people.” In this spirit, we ask you to heed the call from Palestinians and commit not to perform at Eurovision while it provides cultural cover for an ongoing genocide.

Thank you for standing with us, for queer life, joy and liberation for all.

Queers for Palestine responded to Mr Alexander’s statement as follows:

This Writer fears that Mr Alexander and his fellow contestants are being naive about Israel – and may find their well-intentioned call for unity flung back in their faces.

I wonder whether we will even have to wait until the contest itself before we hear a denunciation of anybody opposing Israel’s participation as anti-Semites or worse.

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