Anti-Israel activists threaten to disrupt BBC Eurovision over Netta performance

BDS protesters plan to gather outside BBC's MediaCityUK building in Salford on Friday


Anti-Israel activists are threatening to disrupt the BBC's live show Eurovision Song Contest: You Decide on Friday due to the participation of last year's Israeli winner, Netta Barzilai.

Protesters from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other pro-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) organisations are due to congregate outside the BBC's MediaCityUK building in Salford, claiming the staging of Eurovision 2019 in Israel in May "is being used to art-wash Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights".

The PSC have called on other artists and media workers to boycott the event.

While the demonstrations outside the venue are expected to be peaceful, security has been bolstered around Netta over fears protesters inside the arena may attempt to mirror the antics of BDS campaigners who stormed the stage in France last month to disrupt their semi-finals of a pre-Eurovision contest.

Viewers will get the chance to decide which song they want to represent the UK in Tel Aviv at the final in May.

The JC can reveal that Netta will perform a live version of last year's winning song, Toy, on Friday evening's show, wearing a gown by Israeli wedding dress designer Riki Dalal.

Netta has worked closely with Riki over the past three months on the dress design which is said to reflect her personality and style .

She is said to "unfazed" by the prospect of demonstrations at the event.

After the protests in Paris last month, Netta said: "Five people who came to spread darkness rather than focusing on music and love can’t bother me on a night like this.

I’m grateful for the warm and huge embrace I received here this evening.”

In January, the BBC dismissed anti-Israel campaigners' calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, saying it would broadcast the event because it is "not political".

An earlier letter signed by 50 artists urged the broadcaster use its influence to “press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed”.

The signatories included Roger Waters, musician Peter Gabriel, designer Vivienne Westwood, actor Julie Christie and filmmakers Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.

They also claimed that the European Broadcasting Union (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”.

But the BBC said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign.

“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."

The JC has contacted the BBC for comment ahead of Friday's You Decide show.

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