French Artist Statement on Eurovision

Official advert, Eurovision 2019.

More than 100 French artists, including the draughtsmen Willem and Tardi, Imhotep of the IAM group, the filmmaker Alain Guiraudie, the opera singer Marie Soubestre and the visual artist Ernest Pignon Ernest, have announced that they “will not go to Tel Aviv to launder the system of legal discrimination and exclusion that prevails against Palestinians in Israel, and (call) France Télévisions and the French delegation not to serve as a guarantee for the Israeli ” government.

From 14 to 18 May, France Télévisions intends to broadcast the Eurovision 2019 Contest in Israel, in Tel Aviv, in the Ramat Aviv district, on the ruins of the village of Sheikh Muwannis which, as the Israeli NGO “Zochrot” (“they remember” in Hebrew) reminds us, is one of the hundreds of Palestinian villages emptied of their inhabitants and destroyed in 1948, when the State of Israel was created.

For France Télévisions, Eurovision is “an entertainment of a unique international scope and open to a very great artistic diversity” that claims to celebrate diversity and inclusion. According to the public channel, “music, which has no borders, is its essence, with the universal ambition of dialogue between peoples, openness and living together”.

But this message rings hollow as he seeks to divert us from human rights violations against Palestinians. Discrimination and exclusion are deeply rooted in Israel, where, among other things, the law “Israel, Nation-State of the Jewish People” was adopted on 19 July 2018, proclaiming that only Jews have the “right to national self-determination”, thus officially endorsing apartheid.

The sense of history, inclusiveness and solidarity is rather on the side of the many demonstrations in Palestine and throughout Europe, calling on artists and presenters not to go to Tel Aviv. Through this forum, we also wish to participate in this movement, to show our support for Palestinian artists in the war waged by Israel.

In March and April 2018, Israeli gunmen targeted and killed journalists who were filming peaceful demonstrations in Gaza. In August, an Israeli F-16 destroyed the Said al-Mishal Centre in Gaza, a place of music, theatre and dance. Palestinian artists, actresses, actors and musicians are regularly prevented from travelling by the Israeli occupation authorities, or as in the case of the committed poet Dareen Tatour, imprisoned for “incitement to terrorism”.

Today, it is also progressive Israeli organizations that are hindered by the Israeli authorities. The Ministry of Culture accuses them of subversion and reduces their funding. In 2017, for example, the Saint Jean d’Acre Theatre Festival had to withdraw a play dedicated to Palestinian political prisoners to avoid government budget cuts. Galleries and film festivals are now threatened in the same way.

Eurovision, according to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), claims to be a “non-political” event. Unfortunately, it is impossible to reconcile what the EBU says with reality. Israel is a state that officially considers culture as an instrument of political propaganda: its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, congratulated the Israeli Netta Barzilai, winner of Eurovision 2018, for “doing exceptional work in the field of external relations”.

We, the French artists and cultural workers who sign this appeal, will not go to Tel Aviv to whitewash the system of legal discrimination and exclusion that prevails against Palestinians there, and we call on France Télévisions and the French delegation not to act as a guarantor for the regime that sends its snipers every Friday to shoot unarmed children on the way back to Gaza. A self-respecting entertainment is not played in Apartheid land. We would not have accepted it for South Africa, we will not accept it for Israel.

Adapted from We, the French artists, denounce Eurovision 2019 in Israel. Originally published in Mediapart. All rights reserved. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia. Published under a Creative Commons license.