Comedian Tom Ballard has joined a number of Australians calling for a boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel this weekend.
The popular competition kicked off earlier this week in Tel Aviv after Israel’s contestant Netta won last year.
Australia’s contender Kate Miller-Heidke will compete in the grand final on Sunday morning Australian time.
But some human rights activists are urging people to snub this year’s contest over the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the region.
The group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Australia said Palestinians are asking audiences to snub Eurovision this year “while the Israeli state continues to commit war crimes, break international law and deny Palestinians equal human rights.”
Australian celebrities including Ballard, former SBS newsreader Mary Kostakidis and actor Colin Friels have called for a Eurovision boycott in a new statement this week.
“As a former employee and as someone who likes important, diverse television, I love SBS,” Ballard said.
“As a homosexual, I am required by law to love Eurovision. Both of these things are true.
“But I’m also compelled to love human rights.
“I’m compelled to join the call from Palestine to boycott Eurovision this year, to call for an end to the persecution and apartheid of Palestinians and to demand justice from the international community.
“Thank you for giving a shit and thank you for doing the right thing.”
Former SBS newsreader Mary Kostakidis said, “The daily brutality and dispossession faced by Palestinian people shames us all.
“While the world’s performers come together to compete in a celebration of song and dance we know that the brutality will continue.
“Just as sanctions and the courage of people all over the world to stand up for justice brought an end to apartheid in South Africa, more and more of us must demand an end to this cruelty, respect for the rights of Palestinian people and peace with justice.”
Issue has divided opinion during this year’s Eurovision contest
But some have criticised calls for a Eurovision boycott.
Celebrities Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Marina Abramovic and others signed an open letter from non-profit group Creative Community for Peace on April 30 condemning the boycott as “subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.”
“We believe that unifying events, such as singing competitions, are crucial to help bridge our cultural divides and bring people of all backgrounds together through their shared love of music,” the letter read.
“We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.
“While we all may have differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the best path to peace, we all agree that a cultural boycott is not the answer.”
Last year’s Eurovision winner Netta, who represented Israel, told the BBC Eurovision “is all about building bridges” and the contest “shouldn’t be political”.
“It’s all about celebrating diversity, being all these people from all these places on the same stage and saying, ‘Hey, we’re all the same and we’re celebrating all these ethnicities and all these kinds and types of music,’” she said.
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