The BBC has rejected a call from dozens of British cultural figures to push for relocating the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest from Israel to another country, saying Wednesday the contest is not political.
The annual contest is scheduled to be held in Tel Aviv from May 14 to May 18, after Israeli singer Netta won the competition in Lisbon last year with Toy. Tens of thousands of music fans from around the world are expected to travel to Israel for the event.
However Wolf Alice, Maxine Peake, Peter Gabriel, and Miriam Margolyes were among 50 signatories on a letter published in the Guardian newspaper urging the BBC to press for the event to held anywhere other than the Jewish state.
The missive – which also includes Vivienne Westwood and Mike Leigh – urged the BBC to call on organizers to “relocate [the contest] to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed” ahead of next week’s UK selection show.
“Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” read the letter.
“The BBC is bound by its charter to ‘champion freedom of expression,’” the letter continued. “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.
“The European Broadcasting Union 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.”
In response, the broadcaster said that it was “not appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons”.
A statement published by the Evening Standard read: “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 letter comes the week before a special one-off show on BBC Two, held yearly, to allow the public to choose this year’s Eurovision entrant from six acts.
Israel was the host of the Eurovision Song Contest twice in the past, in 1979 and 1999.
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