"For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour"
The letter, which appeared on The Guardian, was also signed by musicians including Roger Waters, Declan McKenna, Reverend & The Makers, Paula Darwish, Bloody Knees and Drones Club, as well as Maxine Peake, Alexei Sayle, Vivienne Westwood, Ken Loach and many more.
In it, they take issue with the broadcaster supporting the contest from being held in Israel in protest against the plight of Palestinians.
“Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations,” they argue, adding that any “claim to celebrate diversity and inclusion must ring hollow”.
“We cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” their letter reads. “The BBC is bound by its charter to ‘champion freedom of expression’. It should act on its principles and press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed.”
They continued: “For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour.”
Ahead of the upcoming ‘You Decide’ show to chose the UK’s entrant for Eurovision, the group added: “They and the BBC should consider that ‘You Decide’ is not a principle extended to the Palestinians, who cannot ‘decide’ to remove Israel’s military occupation and live free of apartheid.”
Responding, the BBC denied that Eurovision had any political associations.
“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,” the broadcaster said. “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.”
Last year, Wolf Alice joined the likes of Brian Eno and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters in backing calls for a boycott of Eurovision 2019 hosted by Israel, as well as leading the charge with the likes of Portishead and Shame as part of the #ArtistsForPalestine movement.
Explaining their position, guitarist Joff Oddie described that their opposition was strengthened after “Israelis started shooting and killing people in their tens and hundreds…”
“We agreed years ago that we wouldn’t go there, but this was about agreeing that we would make it public”, he said. “It’s been the worst period of violence since the bombings in Gaza in 2014, so [for us] it was just a big kick up the arse to say, look, we do support this.”
Singer Ellie Rowsell added: “If you say you’re not gonna go to Israel, then lots of people ask you why you’re going to other countries where you don’t believe in their government’s actions.
“People ask, ‘Why do you go to America? Does that mean you support Trump?’ And I can see why [they] think that’s hypocritical, but you won’t do anything if you think like that. Everywhere’s fucked, and in terms of the cultural boycott of Israel, that’s what the Palestinian people have asked for.”
Many protests have been organised by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – a body which Israel argue is driven by anti-Semitism.
Lorde was scheduled to play Tel Aviv in June last year, but cancelled the concert in December 2017 in the face of overwhelming pressure. Lana Del Rey also recently pulled out of Israel’s Meteor festival following controversy about her appearance.
Nick Cave however, went on to play two shows in Israel despite opposition. In sharing a lengthy letter he sent to Brian Eno, the Bad Seeds frontman stated that he had “received a number of messages broadly relating to this issue”, Cave says that Eno had “emailed me in the hope of persuading me to reconsider [the shows]” after they were announced.
Within the message to Eno, Cave labelled the boycott as “cowardly and shameful”, while defending his decision to perform in Israel as a “principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians”.
“I do not support the current government in Israel,” Cave said, “yet I do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies.” The singer added that he is “aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population”, and hopes “that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution”.
Radiohead also played a show in Israel in 2017 despite opposition. “Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closes ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression,” said frontman Thom Yorke of their reasoning.