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Hosting Eurovision does not make Israel part of Europe – Israel News

The first time I heard about Eurovision was in school. I was nine and I arrived in class one morning to find everyone else who talked about how Israel had almost won it the previous night. Of course, my painfully non-Israeli parents were not aware of the national importance of the song contest and did not know that it was a national ritual.

When I asked my friends what Israel did to participate in a European song contest, no one understood my question. I was apparently the only atlas-loving geek in my class who knew at the age that Israel was not even in Europe. That Israel was not Europe was very evident in eastern Israel from the early 1


>> How Eurovision became a strategic asset to Israel

I will not drill you with the historical details of why Israel is a member of the European Broadcasting Union and how it first competed in Eurovision in 1973, a competition like that since has won four times. I still find the idea quite foreign.

But then Israel is not the only technical non-European member of the EBU, and it can be argued that thanks to its isolation from most of its neighbors and the fact that Europeans actually owe us, it is at least the can do is let us into their competitions.

In the absence of working ties with most Arab countries, I have no problem with Israeli athletes and teams competing for European tournaments. As a season ticket holder I will go see my beloved Hapoel Jerusalem game in the European Basketball Champions League.

But sport is more culturally blind than music (as most players to the Israeli national team are Americans who were not selected in the NBA draft), which in theory is something rooted in language, meaning and tradition.

And I do not oppose Eurovision itself as a concept, although the particular brand of performance art – I am not entirely sure whether "music" encapsulates it – is not necessarily my taste.

Of course, you don't have to be European to perform and compete in Eurovision: Azerbaijan and Australia are there as well. Morocco also participated once. Good look at them.

My problem is that after 71 years of existence on Asia's eastern reach, the Israelis still cannot get used to the idea of ​​living in the Middle East.

Israel is not a European country. Not by geography, not by demographics and not historically. Most Israelis are not of European origin (this applies to most Israeli Jews and, of course, to Israeli citizens in general).

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And for whose ancestors lived in Europe for centuries – most of us got the clear message that Europe did not want us there, certainly not as living Jews, and yes, you can argue that the Middle East does not want us either, but we are certainly planning to stay here, whether they want us or not.

Outside the Eurovision Week, Israelis are not massive consumers of today's European pop culture. What we have here, which is not native, or brought by Jewish immigrants from every corner of the glove, is largely Americanized.

I am a proud member of Israel's Ashkenazi minority, but nothing in my Jewish Eastern European heritage is similar to Eurovision. There is no Eurosceptic bone in my body, and as the readers of this column already know, my atheist prayers are fully focused on my native country, which awakens from Brexit's self-induced nightmare.

Much of the "political" coverage of the Eurovision was over the miserable boycott attempts of anti-Israel social media activists to punish it for taking place in Israel. This only served to emphasize the fundamental error of the boycott strategy (as opposed to its moral error).

Any attempt to boycott a Eurovision competition from taking place in any of the Member States of the European Union would have failed because the whole purpose of the competition is to project a depoliticized, non-ideological and uncontroversial picture of uncomplicated entertainment.

Anyone who believes that Eurovision could be transformed into a platform for political protest has simply never seen television or listened to any of the songs.

 Protesters demanding an end to Israel's policy towards Gaza and a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest as the first semifinal in the competition, begin in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 14, 2019
Corinna Kern / REUTERS

Its organizers will never allow anything to endanger its nature or hijack its platform. Not the previous participants have not tried – from commemorating the Armenian genocide to protesting against Russia's expansionism. But the EBU won't let any policy pollute their popular brand.

Like the attempts at the BDS "movement" to get people around the world to boycott Israeli goods is a huge failure, not for any ideological arguments for or against, because nobody is about to stop using their smartphone, so with Eurovision. Hundreds of millions of fans around the world will see the final on Saturday night because they just don't care where it is staged.

Israel, which hosts the Eurovision, does not say anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will not help to make Israeli cause to the world or push the Palestinian struggle further away from the already low place it occupies on the global agenda. Like the Eurovision in Baku in 2012, despite the Aliyev regime wasting an estimated $ 350 million in a targeted indoor arena, did nothing to change the image of the kleptocracy on the Caspian. It does not matter.

You probably don't remember where Eurovision was last year (not Google, it was Lisbon), and besides the participants will remember in a few weeks that it was in Tel Aviv this year. It is a gauzy artificial product with no nutritional value. Cultural fast food that you can consume and digest in any city, not just in Europe but anywhere in the world.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Eurovision. Bad music and ultra-modern performances have their place. It's fun, irony-free camp. But there is nothing European about it. Absolutely not something related to today's Europe, except perhaps for the foolish tactical voice phase, which is fun in its own way.

 Kate Miller-Heidke from Australia performs the Eurovision Song Contest semifinals in Tel Aviv, Israel, during the 2019. May 14, 2019
Sebastian Scheiner AP

But Eurovision's "vision" of a friendly, inclusive, multicolored continent is an illusion. It does not seem what Europe looks like.

Not on its eastern borders, with Putin's Russia trying to regain its hegemony. Not in Hungary or Poland, where Christian ethnationalism has resumed, or Italy, where neofascism makes a comeback. Not in Germany, Austria, Spain and France, where far right parties get gains. I can continue. Did I mention Brexit already?

Eurovision was originally launched in the 1950s to create a sense of new European solidarity in the continent that had been destroyed by war. As such, it successfully reflected the new commitment to peace and prosperity.

Today, it is no longer Europe that bravely tries to overcome the differences of the past, but as an extravaganza gets wild every year, it is escapism – and not in a good way.

It is Europe that avoids all the ways that religion, nationalism and immigration once again strike it apart. It is a mirage, a Europe that avoids its predictions with obscene songs and shiny clothing.

And for Israel, it is an illusion that it can escape the Middle East for a non-existent vision for Europe. Because no matter how many Eurovisions we host, we will never be part of Europe.

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