As Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day on May 15, the Eurovision Song contest is kicking off in Tel Aviv. Artists from 41 European countries, Australia, and Israel will be performing. In participating in the competition, these performers have rejected the Palestinian call for boycott of the apartheid regime. Given Israel’s continuous structural oppression of the Palestinians, the Eurovision song contest is a victory for Israeli colonialism and, therefore, a celebration of Palestinian suffering.
While most performers have ignored the plight of the Palestinians, some have made an effort to witness the consequences of apartheid first hand. Icelandic group Hatari visited the segregated West Bank city of Hebron and witnessed the conditions of Palestinians struggling under apartheid. Despite this experience, the band has attempted to justify its decision to participate in Eurovision. In an interview with Wikiblogs, one band member, Matthíás, claimed:
Of course, we’re very conflicted about being here in this contest. But I feel as participants we have the power to address the absurdity really of having a contest like this, which is a beautiful thing that is founded in the spirit of unity and peace, but hosting it in a country that’s scarred by conflict and disunity.
The idea that Eurovision performers have the “power” to rectify the situation in Palestine is comical. Of course, Israel will not dismantle apartheid and respect the human rights of Palestinians because of the performances of a few pop musicians. What is more, this narcissistic audacity is reminiscent of colonial thinking. What it implies is that Middle Eastern populations are uncivilized and incapable of solving their own problems without Western interference. Such rhetoric dehumanizes these individuals and adds to the erasure of the already fragile visibility of the Palestinian struggle.
What might have inspired this overestimation of personal power? Opportunism, lack of self-awareness or empathy, as well as plain ignorance are all possible explanations. Hypocrisy, however, seems the most likely candidate.
Eurovision is a major content and holds the possibility of fame and fortune for successful participants, many of whom are unknowns. For some groups, the value of Palestinian life simply cannot compete with the personal benefits of participating in the competition.
Regardless of intention, a three-minute Eurovision performance is not going to decolonize Palestine. On the contrary, Hatari and its fellow participants will be contributing to the strength of Israel’s on-going colonization project by taking part in this year’s contest.