Czech human rights groups have written an open letter to the Czech bank Lake Malawi regarding their participation in the controversial Eurovision festival in Tel Aviv. The original Czech version here.
Dear members of Lake Malawi,
You won the nomination to represent our country at Eurovision 2019. Under normal circumstances, congratulations would be in order. As the underlying idea behind this European contest is to unify the continent and its surrounding regions, defy differences and unite people from various cultures – it is a highly symbolic event.
This year, however, this commendable musical event is happening in a country which many in the international community deem an apartheid state. A state in which the ruling regime is irreconcilable with the idea of cultural exchange. A state which continuously ignores its international obligations. A state which systematically occupies and colonizes the West Bank – expelling the indigenous Palestinian population. A state which has turned the Gaza Strip to an open-air prison and treats its Arab Israeli citizens – a telling term designated by Israel to its Palestinian population – as second-class citizens.
Your arrival to Israel coincides with the commemoration of Israeli independence, which to Palestinians is synonymous with the Nakba – the catastrophe which saw half of Palestine’s indigenous expelled from their homes, and over 500 Palestinian villages destroyed by Zionist forces. The culture tent in which you’ll perform, sits on top of one such destroyed Palestinian village al-Shaykh Muwanis. Its inhabitants were forcibly expelled and never allowed to return.
“Eurovision Village”, which will be the setting for parties for both participants and guests, is located in a park where once stood the Palestinian quarter Manshiya, in Jaffa. You will perform your song, Friend of a Friend, in front of an audience hardly containing any Palestinians living in Israel, and no Palestinians from the Occupied Territories for whom entry into Israel is made virtually impossible. Instead, during this celebration of music, which Israel has called “Beautiful, Diverse, Sensational”, Palestinians will be performing in front of Israeli soldiers – the same women and men for whom seats are reserved in the concert hall.
Just in the past year, during brutal suppressions of non-violent civilian demonstrations in Gaza, Israeli soldiers killed more than 200 protesters and injured 18,000 people demanding an end to the destructive Israeli blockade of the strip. On the very same day as Israel was celebrating Netty Barzilai’s win at last year’s Eurovision with a concert, the Israeli army killed 62 unarmed protesters. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have reported on deliberate efforts by the Israeli military to maim and kill Gazan protesters.
Perhaps in the same moment, as you will be on stage trying to win over the audience, another Israeli rocket will land in Gaza and kill a pregnant woman and a toddler, just as happened recently. Perhaps in the same moment as the audience will be applauding you, someone will be dying at a check point in the occupied West Bank, because Israeli soldiers will be denying them passage to a hospital. Perhaps, when you finish performing, and head to a party at one of the night clubs near your hotel, the Israeli army will be demolishing additional Palestinian houses in the West Bank, or arresting and torturing 11-year-old Palestinian children.
Life in Tel Aviv may appear to be filled with European comforts and removed from all this suffering. You may not even notice that there such things as occupied territories and blockades, or, you can choose to ignore these realities. But even if you turn a blind eye to the oppression which will be taking place just a few kilometers away from you, this won’t make the reality any less harrowing. We believe it is precisely because of the history of our own nation that we are obliged to stand up to injustice and strive to contribute to the end of suffering of others regardless of the seeming hopelessness of the situation. For there was time, when even apartheid in South Africa seemed like it would last forever. But due to the pressure of the international community it was possible to end this dominion of one ethnic group over another and to topple the apartheid regime. We believe that even in Israel, which likes to present itself as a Western-style democracy, and which the Czech Republic considers a friend, one day oppression and injustice will come to an end.
As signatories of this letter we align ourselves with the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign, and call on artists to boycott Eurovision held from the 14th to the 18th of May 2019 in Tel Aviv. We thus join a range of individuals, organizations, and artists, including Palestinian and Israeli artists, who reject the holding of Eurovision in Tel Aviv – part of Israel’s efforts to cover up the crimes of the occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and normalize the unequal status of their own Palestinian citizens.
Dear members of Lake Malawi,
With this, we ask of you – if you do end up going to Israel, don’t be indifferent to the victims of its regime. Avoid performing at this year’s controversial Eurovision in Tel Aviv and don’t become part of the larger cultural “whitewashing” for which Israel continuously uses international artists for. Don’t partake in something, which you could in the future regret.
Prague, 13 May 2019
Zdeněk Jehlička, Not in Our Name! For Just Peace in the Middle East
Petra Šťastná, International Solidarity Movement Czech Republic
Naďa Kotaishová, Friends of Palestine
Moein Shomali, Palestinian Club in the Czech Republic
Magdaléna Křížová, Jewish Voice of Solidarity
Anežka Nováková, Kiwi Film Fest
Herbert van Lyden