Dear Madonna and Eurovision 2019 contestants,
You have so far decided to ignore several requests to honour the Palestinian picket line. On May 9, Gaza cultural organisations and artists issued a strong call asking them to boycott the contest out of respect for the two babies and two pregnant women along with the 23 other Palestinians killed in Israel’s latest violent assault on the strip.
In addition to the repeated calls made by the Palestinians and their Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, tens of thousands of people in Europe and around the world have signed petitions reiterating the plea to #BoycottEurovision2019 in Tel Aviv and asked you to stop art-washing occupation and apartheid. But it all has fallen on deaf ears!
Perhaps you don’t care, or perhaps you believed Israel’s propaganda that we are all terrorists and the attacks on Gaza are “security operations”. Some of you have spoken about supporting peace, but if you really do, then you wouldn’t be singing in Israel.
Let me tell you what supporting peace really means.
It means affirming the fact that Palestine is under occupation and that Israel has violated numerous UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of its troops from Palestinian territories. It means recognising that Israel and its illegal settlements operate under apartheid, where Palestinians are segregated, surveilled, oppressed, and killed into submission. It means acknowledging that Israel was built on a land whose original native population was violently ethnically cleansed and dispossessed.
The very venue your hosts are having you sing at, the Expo Tel Aviv, was built on the ruins of the Palestinian village Al-Shaykh Muwannis, which like 530 others were completely razed to the ground in 1948 to make way for settlers coming from your countries in Europe. We, the six million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world, are the living proof that Palestine was a thriving and civilised land before the arrival of the European Zionists.
Those few Palestinians who were able to remain in their land and were given Israeli citizenship, face more than 50 discriminatory laws which make them non-equal citizens. In fact, last year Israel finally officially acknowledged the apartheid it had imposed for decades on the non-Jews within its borders by proclaiming itself a Jewish state. But even before this declaration, anti-apartheid fighters, like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had repeatedly compared Israel to South Africa and said that the parallels are clear.
If Europe took action and boycotted the racist murderous regime of apartheid South Africa, why aren’t you doing so with Israel? Why do you insist on rewarding the perpetrators of the second-gravest crime against humanity, apartheid?
Why are you pretending not to see the colonisation of Palestine? Over the past few days, you have been singing just a few kilometres away from a vast network of segregated infrastructure and checkpoints that separate some 650,000 Jewish settlers who live in illegal settlements built on occupied Palestinian land from the Palestinian population. Meanwhile, the true owners of the land in the West Bank have no state to protect them, no rights to the resources of the land, including water, no real freedom of movement, and no real economic prospects to live a dignified life.
Nearby, just 60km south of where you have been signing is also my home, Gaza, which has been under a medieval blockade for 12 years. It has been compared to a concentration camp and an open-air prison, but I would say it is much worse. We struggle to live with no access to clean water and just a few hours of electricity a day; our children are suffering from malnutrition and our sick are dying at an unimaginable rate for lack of medication and proper treatment.
Israel has waged three major wars on us in the past 10 years, killing thousands in the indiscriminate bombing by American-made fighter jets. After every conflict, international organisations usually talk about reconstruction. In our case, they do not. After every violent Israeli assault, we cannot rebuild because there is no concrete, basic building materials or electric supplies.
All this constitutes “collective punishment” and under the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime – one of many Israel commits on a daily basis.
By next year, according to the UN, Gaza will become uninhabitable.
How does it feel to sing and dance so close to so much human misery and suffering? Just 60km away from a place that can no longer support human life, but holds some 2 million people under lockdown by your host?
Does this mean anything to you?
With brutal precision, we have been uprooted, humiliated at checkpoints, imprisoned without charge, denied our heritage and religious sites, denied our freedom to move and see family members, denied water, arable land and our livelihoods, denied our dreams of a normal life. All along, you and the rest of Europe have merely watched and done nothing, although it was European powers who brought this suffering onto us seven decades ago.
But it is not too late. You can still do something.
You can stand up against apartheid and occupation, you can stand up for basic human rights and equality and refuse to sing on the ruins of a Palestinian village one more night. You can support one of the many apartheid-free Eurovision gatherings happening across Europe. You can back BDS and call on others to do so.
This is our last appeal.
Remember your peers of the previous generation who stood up bravely against South African apartheid and backed the boycott movement. Like them, you can stand on the right side of history and boycott Israel today!
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.