Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, and Marina Abramović are among the celebrities who have signed a letter rejecting the proposed boycott of this year’s Eurovision song contest, set to take place in Tel Aviv in May.
The letter states that Eurovision’s “spirit of togetherness” is currently “under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division”.
Co-ordinated by the non-profit organisation Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), the letter features more than 100 signatories, including Gene Simmons from the band Kiss, music mogul Scooter Braun, comedian Al Murray, and Countdown co-presenter Rachel Riley.
“We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition. While we all may have differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the best path to peace, we all agree that a cultural boycott is not the answer,” it continues.
Ari Ingel, director of CCFP, said: “The members of the entertainment industry who have signed this statement, along with the thousands of individuals who have endorsed its message, all believe in building bridges through music and the arts as a means to achieving greater understanding and peace in the region.”
Peter Gabriel, Vivienne Westwood and Roger Waters were among those who signed an open letter asking the BBC to push Eurovision to move the competition from Israel.
“Eurovision may be light entertainment,” the letter published in The Guardian reads, ”but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.”
Israel are set to host the singing competition after the country’s entry – Netta, with the song “Toy” – won the 2018 edition.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, had wanted to hold the 2019 competition in Jerusalem, but the city’s nationality has been heavily disputed, with Palestine claiming ownership over the Israeli-occupied area. The competition will instead take place in Tel Aviv.
A BBC spokesperson told The Independent that they would still be showing this year’s Eurovision.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign,” they said. ”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 host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”
Michael Rice, 21, will represent the UK at the event, which is set to take place on 18 May.