A predictable slate of cultural figures in the United Kingdom – including perennial anti-Israel activist Roger Waters – appealed to the BBC to boycott the Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv.
In a letter in The Guardian printed on Tuesday, the group said the BBC should use its influence with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to “press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed.”
The letter was signed by 50 artists, including Waters, musician Peter Gabriel, designer Vivienne Westwood, actor Julie Christie, writer Mike Leigh and director Ken Loach.
The signatories claimed that the EBU “chose Tel Aviv as the venue over occupied Jerusalem – but this does nothing to protect Palestinians from land theft, evictions, shootings, beatings and more by Israel’s security forces.”
In response, the BBC said on Wednesday that it is not interested in politics and it will be taking part in the Eurovision in Tel Aviv.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign,” the statement read. “The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity, and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons.
“Because of this, we will be taking part in this year’s event,” the public service broadcaster added. “The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”
It is slated to air You Decide, its live show to select a 2019 Eurovision contestant, on February 8.
With just over three months until the Eurovision begins, it is basically inconceivable that the host country would be changed. In the nine months since Netta Barzilai won the competition for Israel, a host city, venue and four presenters have been selected. Earlier this week, Eurovision executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand took part in the opening ceremony of the Eurovision season in Tel Aviv.
“The insignia ceremony is an important moment for the Eurovision Song Contest and an exciting celebration of the host city handover,” he said on Monday. “As the countdown continues to May, we look forward to welcoming [the contestants] to Tel Aviv for Eurovision Song Contest 2019.”