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Israeli entrant Noa Kirel performing in the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest final at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool this year. Alamy Stock Photo

RTÉ receives close to 500 emails calling on it to boycott Eurovision due to Israel’s involvement

The organisers of the Eurovision have described it as a ‘competition for broadcasters – not governments’.

CLOSE TO 500 emails have been sent to RTÉ calling on it to boycott the 2024 Eurovision due to Israel’s involvement in the song contest.

RTÉ is Ireland’s representative broadcaster at the Eurovision Song Contest and it has been urged in these emails to “immediately withdraw support and participation in the contest next year, if Israel is permitted to compete”.

Israel was expected, as usual, to take part in the contest – but the campaign to launch an Irish boycott gathered pace after official confirmation last week of the 37 countries to take part in next year’s contest in the Swedish city of Malmo.

Meanwhile in Iceland, a songwriter’s group has also called for a boycott. 

The Icelandic Society of Authors and Composers has urged Iceland’s national broadcaster RÚV to withdraw from the Song Contest unless Israel is banned from participating.

In a statement to The Journal, an RTÉ spokesperson said the state broadcaster “is aware of this petition” and has “received approximately 465 emails in relation to it” as of yesterday.

A template email, that has been seen by The Journal, claims that “Israel’s participation in the contest next year brings the entire competition into disrepute”.

The petition adds that by “competing alongside Israel, we are supporting the atrocities currently being carried out by Israel in Palestine”.

The email added: “It appears that Israel’s participation is part of a concerted public relations effort by the Israeli government to portray itself to the global community as a modern, liberal, forward-thinking state, despite the years of occupation and violence against Palestine.”

The email also notes that while a “boycott of the competition will not end the brutal violence, it will serve as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian people”.

The petition further describes Ireland as a “vital part of the heartbeat and history of the competition” and added that it is “essential that we use our voice now to condemn the actions of the Israeli government”.

It also noted that Russia was excluded from the competition due to the invasion of Ukraine after the Eurovision organisers said that to do otherwise would “bring the competition into disrepute”.

The Eurovision Song Contest is organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

In the immediate aftermath of the 2022 Ukraine invasion, the EBU said it was “monitoring the situation” and that Russia remained in that year’s competition.

That decision was reversed within 24 hours however. 

As EBU boss and former RTÉ director general Noel Curran explained in an interview with The Journal at that year’s song contest, “it was pretty clear to us that we wouldn’t be able to have Russia take part”.

The template email being sent to RTÉ as part of the current boycott campaign said this decision “sent a powerful message of solidarity to the citizens of Ukraine and showed the world that Eurovision stands for unity and peace”.

“The people of Palestine deserve to hear that message”, the email added.

eurovision-song-contest-signage-is-seen-on-a-staircase-at-liverpools-st-georges-hall-before-an-opening-event-at-the-landmark-building-liverpool-england-tuesday-jan-31-2023-the-event-marks-the Eurovision Song Contest signage on a staircase at Liverpool's St George's Hall before an opening event on 31 January, 2023 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The war, now in its third month, began after the unprecedented 7 October attacks by Hamas on Israel.

Israeli officials say the attacks killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel then began a relentless bombardment and ground invasion that has killed close to 19,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Gaza. 

A spokesperson for RTÉ told The Journal: “RTÉ has always approached the event in the spirit in which it was founded – which is a non-political contest designed to unite audiences and bring people together through a shared love of music and entertainment.

“37 nations, including Ireland, will take part in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest.

“RTÉ is not aware of any participating Public Service Broadcaster who is planning to boycott the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest.”

The EBU – which is, essentially, an alliance of public service media organisations whose countries are within the European Broadcasting Area – said in a statement to The Journal that the Song Contest was a “competition for public service broadcasters from across Europe and the Middle East”.

“It is a competition for broadcasters – not governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has participated in the Contest for 50 years,” said the EBU spokesperson.

“We are a member-led organisation. The governing bodies of the European Broadcasting Union represent the membership.

“These bodies have reviewed the participants list and agreed that the Israeli public broadcaster KAN meets all the competition rules and can participate in the Contest next year in Malmö, Sweden, alongside 36 other broadcasters.”

The spokesperson added that the “EBU is aligned with other international organisations that have similarly maintained their inclusive stance towards Israeli participants in major competitions at this time”.

In 2019, the Eurovision was held in the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv.

Singer and Senator Frances Black was among over 3,000 people in Ireland – including artists and media personalities - to support a boycott of that year’s Eurovision due to it taking place in Israel.

Ireland took part in the 2019 contest in spite of the boycott campaign - a move welcomed by the Israeli ambassador at the time who accused organisers of attempting to “hijack” the event for political reasons.

In a statement to The Journal, Black said she “absolutely supports an Irish boycott of Eurovision 2024”.

She said that the EBU last year took “a clear, decisive and morally correct stand by banning Russia from participating while it was invading Ukraine”.

Russia remains suspended from the Eurovision Song Contest following its invasion of Ukraine. 

Ahead of the 2024 contest, Black said “the EBU must exclude Israel because of its genocidal bombardment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza”.

She also criticised Azerbaijan’s involvement in the Eurovision “because it has ethnically cleansed the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh”.

Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh became a breakaway state under the control of ethnic Armenian forces in 1994 following a six-year conflict and has remained a point of tension ever since.

In October, the European Parliament passed a resolution which said it considered that the situation in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region amounted to ethnic cleansing and strongly condemned the “threats and violence committed by Azerbaijani troops” against Armenian residents.

Black added: “If the EBU fails to take these actions it will demonstrate that European cultural institutions take a selective and hypocritical approach to human rights and international law, which brings them into disrepute.

“RTÉ should boycott Eurovision 2024 if it means participating alongside Israel and Azerbaijan and allowing those regimes to use the event to whitewash their crimes against defenceless civilians.”

Around 200 people took part in pro-Palestine protests at this year’s Eurovision held in Liverpool in May, where Israel’s Noa Kirol placed third in the contest behind Sweden and Finland.

Ireland exited the contest during the weekday semi-final stages.

-With additional reporting from Daragh Brophy