When Netta Barzilai takes the stage at the Eurovision singing competition in Lisbon on Tuesday night, most of Israel will be rooting her on.
But there are some supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement here that are hoping for the 25-year-old to come in last place at the upcoming contest.
Of course, that’s a fairly unlikely scenario considering every betting chart has Barzilai predicted to take the top prize
In a statement last week, a group that calls itself “Zero Points to Israeli Apartheid” issued a call for voters to shut out Barzilai entirely. The group references the singer’s mandatory IDF service, which she carried out in the Israeli Navy Band.
“The naval entertainer Netta Barzilai, an accomplice to the killing of Gaza children who now presumes to entertain Europeans, should get a resounding slap in her face,” the group wrote to its just over 500 Facebook fans. “Europeans should just give her Zero Points.”
The group also incorrectly claimed that last year’s Israeli contestant, Imri Ziv, was eliminated in the semifinal round; he was not.
Indeed the same group ran a similar campaign last year against Ziv. And despite his limited singing capabilities, he sailed through the semifinal round to place 23rd overall – with 39 points, not zero.
It is no surprise that Israelis around the country have sent messages of support to the singer, who represents Israel’s best chance in more than a decade to bring the Eurovision to Jerusalem.
On Monday around 20 women from Hod Hasharon, Barzilai’s hometown, sent her a special good luck greeting. Also Monday, Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster that will air the Eurovision contest, launched a special Facebook camera filter that lets you dress up like Barzilai – signature hairdo, kimono and all. And this year, for the first time in history, Israel will air the Eurovision – both semifinals and Saturday night’s final – with live commentary.
And, to the dismay of boycott activists, Barzilai is also on the receiving end of love and approbation from around the globe. Just after her song “Toy” was released, a Ugandan dance troupe recorded a video of its choreography for the tune. The video for “Toy” is the most watched by far on the Eurovision YouTube channel – more than three times the views of the second-most watched song.
A week ago Barzilai landed a frontpage feature story on Diario de Noticias, one of the most popular daily newspapers in Portugal. On Sunday, OUTtv, a European TV channel for the LGBT community, awarded her its 2018 OUTmusic award after an online vote.
And the Israel party hosted in Lisbon this week drew thousands of Eurovision fans from around the globe.
“I have never been a favorite in my entire life; I have always been an underdog,” Barzilai said during an interview on the Eurovision opening event’s blue carpet on Sunday night. “And it’s embarrassing and it’s amazing to feel all the love and all the hugs – it’s amazing to see little girls and boys, when they write to me that I helped them love themselves... I show [them] how to break the rules, to show originality, to show thinking outside the box.”