‘Boycotting Eurovision in Israel is not the answer,’ say stars such as Stephen Fry and Sharon Osborne | Ents & Arts News, Details

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Stephen Fry and Sharon Osborne are among the stars to have rejected calls for a boycott of the upcoming Eurovision song contest.

The 2019 incarnation of the annual show is due to take place in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv next month, after singer Netta earned the right for her country to host by winning in Lisbon last year.

Various campaigns have been launched to boycott the competition over Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, which has killed hundreds of Palestinians, but now a counter-petition has emerged.

Israeli singer Netta won the 2018 contest in Lisbon
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Israeli singer Netta won the 2018 contest in Lisbon

Creative Community For Peace, a non-profit organisation representing the entertainment industry, has secured support from more than 100 artists and famous faces to back the show.

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In a statement signed by the likes of Fry, Osborne and celebrated Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, the group said the contest was a “unifying power” and those opposed to it wanted to turn it into a “weapon of division”.

“We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition,” it added.

“While we all may have differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the best path to peace, we agree that a cultural boycott is not the answer.”

The BBC, which shows the contest on television in the UK each year, has also voiced its opposition to calls for a boycott, saying the show embodies “values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity”.

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Around 186 million viewers worldwide watched the contest last year and Israel is hoping plenty of people decide to descend on Tel Aviv for the 2019 final on 18 May.

But despite the intervention of some heavy-hitters from the world of arts and entertainment, opposition to the contest will no doubt continue right up until the big day.

Fire and smoke billow above buildings in Gaza City during reported Israeli strikes on March 25, 2019. - Israel's military launched strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip today, the army and witnesses said, hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit a house and wounded seven Israelis
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Fire and smoke billow above buildings in Gaza City during reported Israeli strikes

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which works to end international support for Israeli campaigns in Gaza, said the contest was being used to “distract attention from war crimes against Palestinians”.

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And the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has said that backing Eurovision this year would mean being “complicit in ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights”.

Both are highly critical of the actions of Israel in Gaza, which the country justifies as continued retaliation for airstrikes launched by Hamas.

Palestinians gather as tear gas is fired by Israeli forces during a protest marking Land Day and the first anniversary of a surge of border protests, at the Israel-Gaza border fence east of Gaza City March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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Palestinians gather as tear gas is fired by Israeli forces

Such anti-Israel campaigns have had significant success within the music industry before, with US singer Lana Del Rey having postponed an appearance at a festival in the country last September after significant backlash.

New Zealand star Lorde also decided against performing there last June, deciding to cancel just a week after the gig was announced.

She said the change of heart came after an “overwhelming number of messages and letters”.

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