Eurovision has always been an exercise in bad taste, but this year’s event takes things to an extreme. If you want to enjoy the kitschy song contest, which will take place from 14 to 18 May in Tel Aviv, Israel, then you have got to ignore the bloody political context that surrounds it. Indeed, Israel is so intent on keeping Eurovision politics-free that anyone it says might disrupt the event will be blocked from entering the country.
One of the most frustrating things about being Palestinian (I’m half-Palestinian myself) is that there seems to be no acceptable way to defend your humanity or protest agains your oppression. Calls to boycott Eurovision, for example, have been decried as divisive. Last month, celebrities including Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne and Marina Abramović signed a letter stating that Eurovision’s “spirit of togetherness” is “under attack by those calling to boycott [the competition] because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division”.
Look at that language. A peaceful form of protest is described as an “attack” and a “weapon”. Palestinians and their supporters are cast as unreasonable, violent aggressors. Meanwhile, the larger context is ignored. The fact that most Palestinians, even those just a few miles from Tel Aviv, have no hope of attending Eurovision thanks to the severe travel restrictions imposed on them, is ignored. The fact that there is an entire infrastructure – from a concrete border wall to segregated roads – that is designed to separate Palestinians and Israelis is ignored.
Unless you have been to Palestine, it is hard to understand the daily violence of the occupation. It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that someone such as my father, who was born in the West Bank, could have no right to return there. It is hard to imagine what it is like to see your homes and history demolished. It is hard to understand the humiliation involved in traversing Israeli checkpoints to go to visit a relative in the next village. It is hard to imagine what it is like to be constantly told that you do not exist.
Palestinians aren’t just dehumanised in life, they are dehumanised in death. Just look, for example, at some of the coverage of the recent violence in Gaza. According to the Washington Post on 6 May, “four Israeli civilians were killed … and 23 Palestinians died”. CNN similarly reported that 23 people “have died in Gaza” while “in Israel, four people have been killed”. Palestinian lives don’t matter. The American media makes that clear every time it talks about Palestinian deaths, which are routinely described with a passive voice that casts them as random accidents. Weird how Palestinians keep walking into bullets; can’t say who is to blame, really.