Fintan O’Toole: Everything about Israel is political, even Eurovision

Israel has used the song contest to present itself as a normal European society

Nothing to sing about?: 10-year-old Mona Abdulmagid (foreground of montage) takes part in the the Ireland Palestine Alliance’s boycott-Eurovision campaign. Last year’s winner was the Israeli singer Netta Barzilai (background)

Nothing to sing about?: 10-year-old Mona Abdulmagid (foreground of montage) takes part in the the Ireland Palestine Alliance’s boycott-Eurovision campaign. Last year’s winner was the Israeli singer Netta Barzilai (background)

In 1973, two interesting things happened to Israel, one momentous, the other apparently trivial. The momentous one was that, in October, a coalition of forces led by Egypt and Syria invaded the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, initiating what is known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War and in its Arab neighbours as the Ramadan War. The trivial one had happened six months earlier in the relative dullness of Luxembourg: Israel became the first non-European country to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The question, as Israel controversially hosts next week’s Eurovision, is whether these events are in some sense related. Does the Eurovision float above the fractured politics of the Middle East? Or, as those who have called for a boycott of this year’s contest insist, does this festival of camp confer political legitimacy on the repressive policies of a rogue state?

The Irish Times
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