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Palestine Scarves, Eurovision and the Reality of Israel

The Eurovision song contest passed without a hitch. It was viewed by almost 200 million people worldwide and 8,000 people in the venue itself. The spectacle has been uniformly praised and rightly so.

Naturally this being Israel the event needed some controversy. Those looking for it showed only their ignorance on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Let’s take as an example the case of the entry from Iceland, the punk ensemble known as Hatari. They complained about the lack of freedom to make political statements in interviews before the final of the competition and waved Palestinian scarves while being filmed during the final. If they thought that waving those scarves would anger Israelis they were sorely mistaken.

The truth is that Israelis would appear to be more in favor of a Palestinian state that Palestinians are. The difference perhaps being that Israelis are in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel rather than instead of it. In the wake of hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli population centres from the only area under full Palestinian control Israelis are right to be concerned about what form a state of Palestine would take. Those who don’t have to live in fear of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets would do well to find some empathy rather than attempting to be critical.

The Israeli body politic has voted for peace and a Prime Minister willing to offer Palestinians a state in the past, notably in the form of the former General Ehud Barak. In 1999 Barak was swept into power by the popular vote beating then (and current) Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Barak ran on a campaign that pledged to withdraw the Israel Defense Force from Southern Lebanon and to make peace with the Palestinians. When given the chance to vote for policies of peace Israelis took it. They voted for a Prime Minister promising to deal with Palestinians, eventually he offered them a state.

Dreams of peace were shattered by the Second Intifada, a wave of bloody bombings and shooting attacks that mostly targeted civilians. The Prime Minister lasted barely a year and a half, forced from office by the violence the prospect of a Palestinian state brought forth from Palestinians.

Israelis want to see a state of Palestine they just don’t want to sacrifice their loved ones in an attempt to bring it about.

The Rainbow Flag Flies High in Israel

When Hatari waved the Rainbow flag they were accidentally supporting Israel. Critics of Israel try to bash Israel over gay rights all the time. It is ironic that the only rebuke of Israel and gay rights that is thrown against it has nothing to do with gay rights at all. The claim is that Israel is tolerant of gays only to disguise the treatment of the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv hosts the Middle East and Asia’s largest Gay Pride event. In 2018 the Associated Press reported that some 250,000 people attended Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride event. The scenes were unprecedented in the Middle East though are likely to be repeated…in Israel next year. Nowhere else in the Middle East though.

It’s a shame Hatari didn’t come to Israel with the open minds they think they have.

The Bandwagon

Naturally some jumped on the bandwagon. In an article in Haaretz entitled Thanks Iceland, Madonna for Disrupting Eurovision’s Big Deception Odeh Bisharat says:

Some 360,000 people live in Iceland, whereas Germany’s population is over 80 million, 225-fold larger than Iceland’s. But in a test of morality, Iceland is a thousand-fold more decent than Germany, with its generations-long murderous history, particularly directed at Jews.

At this point in time, instead of playing a key role in bringing peace and justice to the Middle East, Germany is placing all its stocks in the Israeli occupation and the continued oppression of the Palestinian people. During the merry days of the Eurovision song contest, the Bundestag (the name still evokes chills among many, particularly in this country) saw fit to pass a resolution that defines the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as racist and anti-Semitic, no doubt to the dismay of MK Bezalel Smotrich, that shining knight of human rights.

In an era where the Holocaust is used as a political football by everyone who wants to make a point Bisharat decides to evoke it  to heap praise on Icelandic punk musicians dressed in leather because they waved a scarf with the word Palestine on it.

German sensitivity towards the Jewish state is to be expected, it is to be commended and to criticise it on the basis of Nazism is ludicrous.

What many of Israel’s critics are loathe to admit is that it will take more for Palestine to be free than the waving of a scarf or the writing of an op-ed. It will take practical measures by the Palestinian Authority to work to convince Israelis that their state won’t become a launchpad for attacks on Israeli civilians. But this is all too complicated for an Icelandic pop band who came to Israel to perform, perhaps they should have just stuck to their performance without making gestures that showed nothing more than their own ignorance.