Eurovision drama: Jerusalem might not host next year’s song contest

According to Israeli MK Miri Regev, the 2019 Eurovision song contest should either be held in Jerusalem or not at all.
Netta Barzilai preforms at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Israeli Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev made waves today (Thursday) when she said that next year’s Eurovision should either be held in Jerusalem- or not at all.

“I will recommend to the government that if the Eurovision Song Contest will not be held in Jerusalem, we shouldn’t be hosting it,” Regev said in an interview with Israeli broadcaster Kan Bet.

“It will cost Israel 50 million shekel. It’s meant to promote the country,” she said. I personally say that if the Eurovision won’t be in Jerusalem, it wouldn’t be right to invest 50 million shekels of taxpayers’ money into it. The State of Israel has a capital called Jerusalem and we don’t need to be ashamed of it.”

Not everyone agrees with Regev, however, “Eurovision in Jerusalem? It’s not a given at all,” said Yossi Sharabi, director-general of Israel’s Culture and Sport Ministry, when he was asked about the cancelled Argentina-Israel match set to be held in Jerusalem. “Everyone wants [the Eurovision] to be in Jerusalem, but there could be other factors.”

Israel’s representative to the Eurovision Netta Barzilai won this year’s song contest in May with her hit song “Toy.” As per the rules of the competition, Israel’s win means that it has the right to host the 2019 finals.

In her acceptance speech in Lisbon, Barzilai told the 200 million viewers: “Thank you so much for celebrating differences between us. Thank you so much for celebrating diversity. Thank you! I love my country! Next time Jerusalem!”

Minutes after Barzilai’s win, Israeli politicians excitedly began making plans to host the contest in Jerusalem. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted: “We are proud of you, dear Netta. We are waiting for everyone next year in Jerusalem!” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: “You brought great honor to the state of Israel. Here’s to next year in Jerusalem!”

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, thanked Barzilai for bringing the Eurovision to his city and said that Jerusalem will help in putting up the Eurovision “in the capital of Israel, and together we will show the beautiful face of Jerusalem to the whole world.”

Barzilai had become the target of anti-Israel and BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activists once rumors began circulating that she was a favorite to win the contest this year. The Facebook page entitled “Eurovision boycott of Israel- ZERO points to the song of Israeli Apartheid” accused Barzilai of “sending off” soldiers in the Israeli Navy with her songs, thus playing “a part in the Gaza carnage.”

Unsurprisingly, once their earlier efforts failed, BDS activists are now campaigning against Jerusalem’s right to host the Eurovision contest. The European Broadcasting Union, who produces the Eurovision Song Contest, has expressed its concerns that several countries would boycott the contest should it be held in Jerusalem.

Miri Regev, an MK with the right-wing Likud party, faced criticism recently for politicizing the friendly soccer match between Argentina and Israel’s national teams which was ultimately cancelled as a result. Regev dismissed the claims that the game was cancelled due to her insisting that it be moved from Haifa to Jerusalem. She is now facing futher criticism from the Israeli opposition in the Knesset and from the Eurovision producers for attempting to politicize the song contest.

Regev is not one to shy away from controversy, especially when it comes to Jerusalem and its contested status; in May of last year, she stepped onto the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in France wearing a dress that featured the entire Jerusalem Old City skyline. Her interesting fashion choice clearly alluded to UNESCO's decision to disavow Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Click Here for more reports by Chelsea Mosery Birnbaum

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