Protest at Irish state broadcaster calling for boycott of Israeli Eurovision

Campaigners have protested at the headquarters of Ireland’s national broadcaster calling for them to boycott Eurovision.

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest is to be held in Israel and campaigners say the state’s record on alleged human rights abuses makes taking part in the competition “unconscionable”.

Protesters handed in a petition of more than 16,500 signatures to the studios on Friday, calling on RTE and Ireland’s Eurovision entry Sarah McTernan not to take part in the singing contest.

Around 50 people carrying Palestine flags, banners and placards gathered at the broadcaster’s Dublin headquarters built a fake stone wall to mimic the Israel−Gaza security barrier.

Boycott Eurovision protest at RTE Studios
About 50 people took part in the demonstration (Brian Lawless/PA)

Zoe Lawlor, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said the idea that Eurovision is non-political is false.

“Israel has made this year’s Eurovision explicitly militaristic and political in nature,” she said.

“This is especially so as the contestants will be expected to perform in front of 500 soldiers from the Israeli military.

“The boycott call has been supported by over 16,500 people in Ireland, the Musicians Union of Ireland, Irish Equity and many prominent figures associated with former Eurovisions, as well as respected public figures in the arts, humanities and human and civil rights fields.

“Ireland has a proud tradition of standing with the oppressed and against injustice and we sincerely hope that Sarah McTernan will take this opportunity to stand on the right side of history by listening to the Palestinian and international calls for a boycott.”

Fatin al Tamimi, a Palestinian woman who has lived in Ireland for 30 years, and chairwoman of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, says a boycott by Ireland would send a strong message of solidarity.

Irish Campaign to Boycott Eurovision spokesperson Betty Purcell will be on the Sean O'Rourke Show debating Keith Mills at around 10.30am this morning. You can tweet support @TodaySOR using hashtags #BoycottEurovision, or email todaysor@rte.ie or Text 51551 pic.twitter.com/EzKy1tAqMN

— IPSC (@ipsc48) March 8, 2019

“Palestine is watching and waiting and looking for Ireland to support them, there has been a civil call in society in Palestine to boycott Eurovision,” she said.

“We don’t want Ireland to take part in the white washing of Israel, which is an apartheid state.

“Their postcard campaign during the programme will show illegal settlements in the occupied territories as part of Israel.”

Dee Forbes, director general of RTE, said last year that the company would not sanction any workers whose consciences prevent them from travelling to Israel.

As a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), RTE has registered to take part in the 2019 contest.

In September, the broadcaster stated that: “RTE is not aware of any regularly participating public service broadcaster who is planning to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest.”

RTE have been contacted for comment.