Britain's Chief Rabbi defends Israel's right to host Eurovision

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warns BDS activists could harm peace by calling to boycott Eurovision in Israel.

Elad Benari ,

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Eliran Aharon

The Chief Rabbi of Britain, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, on Sunday defended Israel’s right to host this year’s Eurovision Song Contest amid calls to boycott the event.

Israel won the right to host Eurovision in 2019 after Netta Barzilai’s victory in this year’s edition of the song contest with her song “Toy”.

The contest will actually be held in Tel Aviv this coming May under the slogan “Dare to Dream”.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, Rabbi Mirvis said anti-Israel campaigners in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement could damage “the cause of peace” by calling for the 2019 event to be relocated.

“Whereas peacemakers seek dialogue and common ground, for more than a decade the BDS movement has pursued a campaign of division and demonization,” he said.

“Calls for the Eurovision Song Contest to be moved from Israel will ultimately harm, and not help, the cause of peace,” he added.

“I call upon those advocating for BDS to turn their efforts towards collaboration and reconciliation,” continued Rabbi Mirvis.

The Rabbi’s intervention came just days after 50 public British figures, including actors Maxine Peake, Miriam Margolyes and Julie Christie, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and film-makers Mike Leigh and Ken Loach signed an open letter calling for the contest to be moved to another country because of alleged Israeli “human rights violations”.

The letter, published in the Guardian, criticizes Israel over its alleged “occupation of Palestinian territories.”

“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,” it reads. “The BBC is bound by its charter to ‘champion freedom of expression’. 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.”

Another signatory to the letter is former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, a notorious anti-Israel activist who has verbally attacked and pressured many artists who chose to perform in Israel over the last several years.

Waters was also among a group of more than 100 artists who published an open letter this past September calling for a boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 since it is being held in Israel.

Despite the repeated calls for a boycott, dozens of countries have confirmed participation in the 2019 contest. They include Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The BBC has already confirmed that it will cover the contest, resisting the calls for a boycott. Australian public television network SBS has also said it will broadcast Eurovision despite an online petition calling on the broadcaster to boycott the event.