Hundreds of queer artists urge Olly Alexander to boycott Eurovision 2024 over Israel’s participation

Hundreds of queer artists, individuals and organisations have urged Olly Alexander, the UK’s Eurovision contestant, to boycott the song contest in solidarity with Palestine.

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The push was put forward to the singer, actor and Years & Years vocalist via an open letter, which was published by Queers For Palestine.

In the letter – which can be read in full here – the signatories urge the musician to boycott the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest due to the inclusion of Israel. “By refusing to expel Israel from the competition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is providing cultural cover and endorsement for the catastrophic violence that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians,” it reads.

“At a time when accountability is so urgently needed, Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision would enable and cover up its war crimes and crimes against humanity,” it continues. “We share the vision of queer joy and abundance you’ve offered through your music, and share your belief in collective liberation for all. In this spirit, we ask you to heed the Palestinian call to withdraw from Eurovision… There can be no party with a state committing apartheid and genocide.”

TV stars Indya Moore, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Maxine Peake are among those who have singed, as well as musicians Goat Girl, H Sinno and Chardine Taylor-Stone, and writers Sarah Schulman, Jason Okundaye and Jamie Windust.

The letter also comes just days after London’s biggest Eurovision screening party cancelled its 2024 edition over Israel’s participation in this year’s event, and after commentator Owen Jones made an appeal for Alexander to “do the right thing” and withdraw.

“Don’t let Eurovision help give the Israeli state a reputational boost as it murders the Palestinian people of Gaza,” Jones said in the video shared on YouTube, also criticising the contest as having “racist double standards”.

In light of the open letter to the singer, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) – a founding member of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – said: “We applaud the thousands of artists, including many queer artists, supporting the boycott of Eurovision 2024 over Israel’s participation.

“This is the moment for Eurovision participants including Olly Alexander to make history, instead of letting it pass them by.”

Palestinians call on @alexander_olly to withdraw from @Eurovision.#BoycottEurovision2024 #Eurovision2024 #Eurovision pic.twitter.com/llcp7jDRqO

— PACBI – BDS movement (@PACBI) March 28, 2024

Last year, Alexander was one of many who signed a pro-Palestine letter, calling Israel an “apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide.

Signed before he was confirmed as the UK’s Eurovision entrant, supported the open letter from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4London, which called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Israel to allow aid into the area. The letter also condemned “Zionist propaganda” amid the war with Hamas.

So far, Israel is still set to take part in the 2024 instalment as planned, but revealed earlier this month that it had changed the lyrics to the song after initially sparking controversy.

The country received widespread criticism with their entry this year formerly titled ‘October Rain’. Sung by 20-year-old Eden Golan, the track appeared to contain references to the victims of Hamas’ October 7 attacks. The song was barred from performance due to breaking rules on political neutrality.

Initially, it threatened to withdraw from the competition if any changes were to be made to the lyrics. However, a call from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for “necessary adjustments” to ensure Israel’s participation prompted their public broadcaster KAN to agree to amend the song. On March 9, Israel was confirmed to compete.

The contest continues to face backlash and boycott calls for allowing the country to compete due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

So far, over 1,000 Swedish artists called for Israel to be banned this year – including Robyn, Fever Ray, and First Aid Kit – and more than 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals have signed a petition to ban the country from taking part in the contest as well.

Sweden entrant Loreen singing the wining song during the Eurovision Song Contest at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. CREDIT: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

On the other hand, the push to have Israel removed from the competition has faced backlash as well, with famous faces including Sharon Osbourne and KISS’ Gene Simmons have signed a separate open letter, rejecting the ban.

Published by the nonprofit organisation ‘Creative Community for Peace’, the letter reads in part: “We have been shocked and disappointed to see some members of the entertainment community calling for Israel to be banished from the Contest for responding to the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Under the cover of thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately into civilian populations, Hamas murdered and kidnapped innocent men, women, and children.”

Similarly, the Israeli president came forward and addressed the pressures to have the country withdrawn – stating that it is “important” for them to be allowed to enter this year’s competition.

The inclusion is, in part, because the European Broadcasting Union have referred to itself as “an apolitical member organisation” that is “committed to upholding the values of public service”. That being said, they did ban Russia from competing in 2022 and Belarus the year prior.

At the start of the year, it was reported that an Israeli soldier had been killed in Gaza weeks after auditioning for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest.

Shaul Greenglick was one of three soldiers recently reported dead by the Israel Defense Forces, via The Times Of Israel, following the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. He earned a place in the show’s next round but he reportedly dropped out of the contest in order to return to his military duties.

The final of this year’s competition will be hosted in Malmö, Sweden, the hometown of this year’s winner Loreen. It will take place on Saturday, May 11.

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