I am not generally very attached to Israel, if I’m being completely honest. I haven’t been there for years, and feel very British and not a scrap Israeli. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m against Israel. It’s just that it’s not my country). I’m not that bothered about supporting Israel in a competition. It’s nice to see them win, but that’s all.
So, why did I feel such utter joy when Israel triumphed at the Eurovision song contest on Saturday? Why was I posting ‘YES!!!!’ on social media, then dancing round the room, flapping my elbows in a chicken dance? And why has that joy lingered beyond the weekend?
Well first, there’s Netta herself, and her song, Toy. She seems to be a complete darling, super talented, full of chutzpah and blessed with an ability to be silly and serious at the same time. Her song - cue chicken noises, brrr, ouch, heh - hides a message that all girls need. “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy” she sings, feminism boiled down to a few words. “Wonderwoman don’t you ever forget…you’re divine…”
Just looking at her at the end, alongside Portugal’s four-woman presenting team, told a story. They were all tall, skinny, wearing clothes cut to show off their bodies. So was the singer from Cyprus that Netta beat into second place. Netta doesn’t look like that. She’s zaftig and happy to talk openly about the prejudice that larger women face: "I celebrate myself no matter what my size is, how my hair is, how my voice is. I just have to be me, listen to myself," she said the day after the contest.
I like to think that an army of curvy women across Europe voted for Netta. We looked at her and saw a great role model - someone who gets on with life and follows her dreams, without hiding away or punishing herself with starvation diets to achieve someone else’s ideal figure. It’s only when we see a performer like Netta that we realise how rare it is on television to see someone who looks like her - like us - treating herself as a divine Wonderwoman. Seeing that attitude on display is more helpful to plus sized girls and woman than any number of diets, or finger-wagging, scare-mongering speeches and articles. Lucky kids who had Netta teach them at kindergarten.
And isn’t Israel the fat girl of the world? Constantly criticised and attacked, misrepresented and told what to do? Wasn’t it great to see the prejudice against her set aside and people celebrate a different side of her? In those viewer votes that Netta got, the BDS bullies were defeated by the silent majority, which accepts Israel’s right to exist and sing and dance like any other country. Just for once the anxiety about antisemitism, which is linked to hatred of Israel, lifted. Netta’s win gave us a glimpse of another way of seeing the world.
Mazeltov Netta, and l’chaim. Long may your clucking bring you fame, fortune and much happiness. Whenever I’m feeling down, I’m going to play your song.