Eurovision organizers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), sent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a list of conditions to be met for Israel to be able to host the 2019 contest. The requirements include allowing participants to enter the country regardless of their political opinions, to travel freely, and to complete freedom of the press and expression.
Israel won the right to host the 2019 contest after Israeli contestant Netta Barzilai won the 63rd edition of Eurovision on May 12. Since then, the country has overcome several obstacles, including who would finance staging the global event and politicians’ push for Jerusalem to be the host city.
Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation, known as Kan, reportedly took out a US$50 million loan and Netanyahu instructed his party members to drop the Jerusalem push, allowing EBU to choose the host city. Jerusalem is still an option.
A new controversy emerged Monday when reports of a letter detailing EBU conditions for Israel came to light.
Last year, Israel passed a law enabling authorities to refuse supporters of the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement entry to the country and the occupied West Bank.
According to Kan, Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet has barred around 250 people from entering the country this year citing alleged involvement in terrorism or espionage. In August, Iranian-American scholar Reza Aslan was detained, questioned, and threatened for hours by Israel’s Shin Bet while he was crossing into Israel from Jordan. Earlier that month Jewish-American anti-occupation activists Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum of the organization 'If Not Now' were also detained and questioned. Zimmerman said she was asked about her political stances and opinions on Israel’s prime minister.
In the letter, the EBU demanded a written response stating that the country will meet their conditions.
Netanyahu has not issued an official response yet; however, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on the prime minister to reject the conditions. "I do not understand by what right the European Broadcasting Union has the audacity to come and make such claims and demand, contrary to the legislation of a democratic state, that a person should be granted entry to Israel even if he works all day and all night to harm Israel so that it is boycotted and isolated," Erdan said.
The EBU letter also demanded that Israel lift any religious restrictions on holding events related to the contest on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. The stipulation was made to address the sensitivities of ultra-Orthodox Knesset members.
In May, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) requested the state to guarantee that Sabbath laws are not violated.
Aside from formalities, the BDS movement has already launched its campaign to boycott Eurovision regardless of whether it is hosted in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, arguing it is part of Israel’s strategy to “whitewash and distract attention (away) from its war crimes against Palestinians.”
“Israel effectively declared itself an apartheid state by adopting the Jewish Nation-State Law. Palestinian citizens are now constitutionally denied equal rights. Holding Eurovision 2019 in Israel whitewashes apartheid,” BDS claims.
Pressure to boycott Eurovision 2019 is mounting in Ireland, Iceland, and Spain.