To Israel, with hate

Netta

Every year, the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual marathon of mostly horrible songs from countries all over Europe, plus Israel and Australia, is held in the homeland of the previous year’s winner. Last year, the winner was Netta, a spunky, offbeat chanteuse from Israel who came out on top with an absolutely abominable tune called “Toy.” So this year the show is being broadcast from Tel Aviv. The first semifinal was on Tuesday; the second is tonight; the finals are on Saturday.

Julie Christie

Cue the protests! As we noted in February, the BDS crowd was quick to protest the plans to hold Eurovision in Israel. In Britain, fifty-odd people who described themselves as laboring in the “creative industries” wrote a letter to the Guardian urging Eurovision officials to relocate the show to some other country and expressing concern about Israel’s “crimes against…freedom.” Among these people who cherish freedom so deeply were directors Ken Loach and Roy Battersby, both former members of the Workers Revolutionary Party; actress Maxine Peake, a former Communist Party member and winner of a 2014 award for an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism; stand-up comedian Alexei Sayle, also a former Communist Party member; actresses Julie Christie and Miriam Margolyes, both of whom are pro-Palestinian activists; playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play Seven Jewish Children has been described as “anti-Jewish agitprop” that seeks “to demonize the Jewish people”; and musician Roger Waters, whose deeply sick obsession with Jews we’ve written about a number of times on this site.

Hatari

Fortunately, the protests were unsuccessful. On Tuesday, the first semifinal went off without incident, but not without controversy. Among the performers was Hatari, a self-described BDSM band from Iceland whose entry is a hideous three-minute stretch of noise entitled “Hate Will Prevail” that expresses the band’s disapproval of the rise of populism in Europe. Note, by the way, that BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, and should not be confused with BDS, the anti-Israeli movement that calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions; in this case, however, BDSM and BDS went hand in hand. For Hatari is not only into sexual kinks but also into the delegitimization of the Jewish state, the overthrow of capitalism, and the introduction of Communism. For we all know how tolerant Communism is of sexual deviance.

Tuesday night’s semifinal

Anyway, before going to Tel Aviv, the members of Hatari felt compelled to make a statement about the idea of holding Eurovision in Israel. They called it a whitewash. “Eurovision is, of course, a beautiful thing in that it is based on ideas of peace and unity,” band member Tryggvi Haraldsson told the Guardian, “and this year it’s held in a country that’s marred by conflict and disunity….Letting the narrative of the fluffy, peace-loving pop contest go on unchallenged in this context in our view is extremely political. Everyone who takes part in this is taking part in a political statement whether they are aware of it or not.” As a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, the members of Hatari went to Hebron, on the West Bank, and spoke out against what they called “apartheid in action.”

All of which raises one big question: if Hatari hates Israel so much, why didn’t it boycott Eurovision? Why is it in Tel Aviv now? It’s a question Palestinians and BDS campaigners have asked. Haraldsson’s answer: if Hatari hadn’t traveled to Israel, it would have missed out on “an opportunity for a critical discussion.” But has Hatari actually sought to engage anyone in Israel in critical discussion? Not that we know of. Besides, Haraldsson added, if Hatari had refused to go to Israel, Iceland would’ve sent somebody else. It’s not exactly the world’s most principled-sounding position, but, hey, it’s a mistake to look to Israel-haters for principle. Finally, asked by the Guardian what’s next for the group, Haraldsson said they wanted to perform “in countries where there currently is not an illegal occupation taking place.” Why not try one of Israel’s neighbors, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, or the United Arab Emirates? Or why not set something up in Hebron or Gaza? Since you care so much about them, we’re sure their response to your act will be, um, explosive.

Oh, by the way: on Tuesday, international voters sent Hatari on to the final. So it’ll be performing again and may actually go home with the gold. Tune in on Saturday, if you have a high threshold of tolerance for bad music.

Poisonous Waters

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Hilary Swank collecting her paycheck in Grozny

It’s a weird, upside-down planet we live on. Consider this. Around the globe, there are almost too many savage, monstrous regimes to keep track of. They steal their people blind. They employ death squads. They imprison, torture, and murder members of the political opposition. They harass and kill independent journalists. They execute gays and persecute Christians. And so on.

And world-famous stars clamor to entertain them and eulogize them. As we’ve seen on this site, Hollywood actors like Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme have traveled to Chechnya to praise and perform for Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet president.  Jermaine Jackson has fawned all over Yahya Jammeh, the brutal dictator of Gambia.  A boatload of luminaries – among them Steven Seagal, Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Gérard Depardieu, and Mickey Rourke – have partied with Putin himself. Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte palled around with Hugo Chávez. And soccer great Lionel Messi has cozied up to Gabon’s child-murdering dictator, Ali Bongo. 

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Sharon Stone with Putin and unidentified child

And yet which country on earth is the sole target of an organized campaign to pressure show-business figures into turning down invitations to perform within its borders? Israel, of course – the only democracy in the Middle East.

The BDS movement – the letters stand for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” – has a wide reach. It’s not just concerned with entertainers. It’s out to cut off Israel as fully as possible, in every way possible, from the rest of the world. But the effort to break cultural ties is particularly high-profile – and alarmingly successful. In February, several hundred British artists signed a statement announcing that they would “not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel,” meaning that they would “accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Among the artists were Palme d’Or-winning film director Ken Loach; Mike Leigh, the Oscar-nominated director of the 2004 movie Vera Drake; and musician Brian Eno.

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Roger Waters

A number of entertainers have been outspoken in their support of the BDS movement. But few of them are as ardent as musician Roger Waters, formerly of the band Pink Floyd. For Waters, there are apparently no gray areas when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: consistently, he not only condemns Israel but also defends terrorists. He’s called the Israeli government a “racist apartheid regime” and accused it of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” He’s slammed what he calls the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. and Israel’s “propaganda machine.” He’s accused Israel’s rabbis of viewing Arabs as “sub-human.” And he’s mocked Israeli concern about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, calling it a “diversionary tactic.”

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Waters’s pig balloon

In the summer of 2013, his concerts featured “a pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David.” In December of that year, he explicitly compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi treatment of Jews. “The parallels with what went on in the 1930s in Germany are so crushingly obvious,” he told an interviewer. Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, a noted American author and public speaker, offered a memorable reply to these remarks. We’ll get around to that tomorrow.