Senator calls for Irish boycott of Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv

Warfield claims Israel using final to present ’prettier face and distract from war crimes’

Senator Fintan Warfield (SF) said ‘two days after the Eurovision final last year Israeli forces killed 62 Palestinians in Gaza’. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Senator Fintan Warfield (SF) said ‘two days after the Eurovision final last year Israeli forces killed 62 Palestinians in Gaza’. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A Sinn Féin Senator has claimed Israel is using the Eurovision song contest to “present its prettier face and to whitewash and distract attention from war crimes”.

Fintan Warfield called for an Irish boycott of the contest as RTÉ prepares to announce the country’s entry for the 64th annual competition, which takes place in Tel Aviv on Saturday May 18th.

He also called on the Government to send the Israeli ambassador home.

“There should be no entry from Ireland,” Mr Warfield told the Seanad. “Time and again the international community remains silent.

“The routine statements of concern must translate into sanction. Israel cannot be allowed to act with impunity when committing murder,” he said.

Mr Warfield said that “two days after the Eurovision final last year Israeli forces killed 62 Palestinians in Gaza”.

The Dublin Senator said there would be a protest outside the national broadcaster on Friday when RTÉ announces its entry.

He added that “the Irish Government has a role to play”.

“It must take the lead and send the Israeli ambassador home,” he said.

Mr Warfield also called on the State to recognise the state of Palestine, following Dáil approval of the move five years ago.

He said Palestinian artists have appealed for a boycott of the song contest. “I appeal to all artists here in Ireland to do the same. Israel is an apartheid State and Eurovision 2019 whitewashes apartheid.”

Israel is hosting the contest for the first time in 20 years after singer Netta won last year in Lisbon with her song Toy. Israel has won the Eurovision four times, while Ireland has a record seven wins and is the only country to have won three consecutive titles.

Replying for the Government, Fine Gael Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer said “there is a part of me that agrees with him, that Ireland should boycott the Eurovision but another part thinks we should not”.

Mr Buttimer said: “ Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda weapon or tool or that any immoral or illegal behaviour cannot be condoned. It should be condemned outright.”

But he added that the Eurovision “is not a political event and has never been used, apart from the voting perhaps, as a political activity but there are legitimate concerns being expressed by a variety of people on the hosting of the Eurovision by Israel.

“I am slow to boycott. If it was a sporting event, I would say the same thing, but I understand the points made and the right to legitimate protest is one that I welcome.”