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'Stand on the right side of history': Protest outside RTÉ calls for broadcaster to boycott Eurovision

The protest follows this morning’s announcement that Sarah McTernan will represent Ireland at this year’s contest.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE IRELAND-PALESTINE Solidarity Campaign has held a protest outside RTÉ calling on the national broadcaster to boycott this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.

The protest follows this morning’s announcement that Sarah McTernan will represent Ireland with her song ’22′ in Tel Aviv on 16 May.

The group says that while it congratulates McTernan on her achievement, it sincerely hopes that she will “take this opportunity to stand on the right side of history by listening to the Palestinian and international calls for a boycott”.

Chairperson of the IPSC, Fatin Al Tamimi, told TheJournal.ie she hopes McTernan will pull out because that is the call of Palestinian civil society.

For Sarah McTernan not to take part in this, it will send a clear message to all artists taking part and will show that Ireland is supporting the Palestinians living under occupation. 

“Furthermore, despite a supposed commitment to allow Eurovision fans to enter the state ‘regardless of political opinions’, Palestinian fans – whether from the occupied Palestinian territories or the refugee diaspora – are highly unlikely to be allowed entry to attend the contest, reflecting Israel discriminatory apartheid system imposed upon for Palestinians,” IPSC said. 

Boycott Eurovision protest at RTE Studios Fatin Al Tamimi, National Chairperson with the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign Source: PA Wire/PA Images

RTÉ has said it will not boycott the contest, stating that the winner and host country of the Eurovision is determined by the rules of the competition, not RTÉ.

“RTÉ is a registered participant in the 2019 ESC, which promotes values of diversity and inclusion and is broadcast to around 200 million viewers worldwide,” the national broadcaster said.

As a long running non-political, entertainment event, the ESC is designed to bring audiences and countries together. RTÉ is confident that the European Broadcasting Union and the host broadcaster will take all necessary steps to safeguard the non-political character of the event throughout the organization of the competition.

“The Eurovision Song Contest’s values are of universality and inclusivity and a shared tradition of celebrating diversity through music,” RTÉ said, adding that 41 members of European Broadcasting Union have confirmed they will take part in the 2019 Contest in Israel.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, The Israeli Embassy said that Israel is looking forward to “welcoming all participants of the Eurovision song contest including of course from Ireland”. 

Ireland and Israel share the values of inclusivity, diversity and unity that are at the very basis of the contest.  Those values have been repeatedly demonstrated by the Israeli participants in the contest.

The statement went on to criticise people seeking to boycott the contest in Israel saying they “exhibit the very antithesis of these values”.

They repeatedly seek to hijack any event, including those promoting fraternity between nations, to promote a cynical, politicized hate campaign against the world’s only Jewish state. Their motives are rooted in support for Palestinian terrorism in Gaza, and are part of the effort to delegitimize Israel as a state and disassociate the Jewish people from their history, heritage and birthplace. 

‘Shame on Ireland’ 

Palestinian campaigner, Asad Abushark, said he was shocked that Ireland’s national broadcaster would participate and go to Israel, “which is oppressing Palestinian people”. 

“Shame on Ireland to do that. The Irish should side with the oppressed people because they themselves have a history of occupation.”

Abushark told TheJournal.ie that he came to Ireland six months ago but that his family still live in a refugee camp in Gaza.

“The Irish people are great, supporting a Palestinian cause, most of the people here today are Irish. They have always supported the Palestinian people. 

“This is why I found it strange that RTÉ is participating because most Irish people support Palestine. I think RTÉ should be supportive like the Irish people.” 

Speaking on RTÉ radio this afternoon, Irish Delegation Head producer Michael Kealy said that no other member of the European Broadcasting Union was boycotting this year’s competition which was set up to bring countries together “through a shared love of music”.

Kealy pointed out that Ireland has participated in Israel the two previous times the county hosted Eurovision and that there was never any internal RTÉ discussions about boycotting the 2019 competition. 

“We’re not going to make any political points,” Kealy said. “We’re not an organisation that does make political statements”. 

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Adam Daly

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