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140 artists, 6 of them Israeli, urge boycott of Eurovision if hosted by Israel

Musician Roger Waters, director Ken Loach, novelist Yann Martel among signatories who want contest shunned for Israel’s ‘grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian rights’

Musician Roger Waters performs during his ‘Us + Them’ tour at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA, on June 20, 2017. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP)

In a letter published by the Guardian on Friday, some 140 artists called for a boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is to be held in Israel next year.

“Until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice and equal rights, there should be no business-as-usual with the state that is denying them their basic rights,” the letter reads.

Signed by some 140 figures from the arts world — including Pink Floyd cofounder Roger Waters, film director Ken Loach, novelist Yann Martel, musician Brian Eno and playwright Eve Ensler — the letter demands the event should be boycotted “if it is hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights.”

Six Israelis have also put their names to the letter: Musicians Aviad Albert, Michal Sapir, Ohal Grietzer, Yonatan Shapira, and Danielle Ravitzki; and artist David Opp.

The letter comes a day after the Meteor festival kicked off in northern Israel, despite numerous artists, including Lana Del Rey, pulling out of performing after coming under pressure from the BDS movement — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — that calls to shun Israel, ostensibly as a way to press the Jewish state to change its treatment of the Palestinians. Critics say BDS actually seeks Israel’s destruction, and Waters, a leading figure in the movement, has been branded an anti-Semite by the Anti-Defamation League.

On Friday, Hadashot TV news reported that the Eurovision contest will be held in Tel Aviv on May 25, 2019, with the semifinals on May 21 and 23.

According to the report, Jerusalem does not meet the criteria required by the European Broadcasting Union for the right to stage the contest — the host venue must host events in the run-up to the competition, act as an international broadcasting center, and must also be hermetically sealed with a cordon, presumably for security reasons.

A source close to the EBU told Hadashot that an announcement would not be made before Israel responded to a letter conditioning hosting on a governmental guarantee that it will grant visas regardless of visitors’ political opinions and let contestants hold general rehearsals on Shabbat.

Israel last year passed a law enabling authorities to refuse access to supporters of boycotts against the Jewish state or of its West Bank settlements. It has since been making use of that law, and has detained many people at Ben Gurion Airport suspected of activism against Israeli actions.

The EBU letter also demanded that Israel lift any religious restriction on holding events related to the contest on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, which begins Friday night and ends on Saturday evening.

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