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Singing in Europe's last Middle Eastern colony

23 125 1407
21.03.2019

With less than two months to go till the song contest Eurovision kicks off in Tel Aviv, controversy surrounding the host country is bound to escalate. The event is a major opportunity for Israel to "art-wash" its crimes against the Palestinian population and pro-Palestinian activists are determined to challenge it with a boycott.

Celebrities like Roger Waters and Wolf Alice have already called for media organisations and artists to refuse to partcipate, while the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement has intensified its campaign against the event.

The provocative decision to hold the opening night of Eurovision on May 14 is particularly galling for Palestinians as it falls on the day Israel commemorates its 1948 declaration of independence. On the following day, as European singers compete in Tel Aviv, Palestine will be marking the 71st anniversary of what they call al-Nakba, the catastrophe, remembering the victims of the Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing.

But beyond the obvious issue of Israel using yet another cultural event to whitewash its bloody reputation, the upcoming Eurovision event is also an opportunity to reflect on how European Israel really is.

The question that few Europeans seem to be asking themselves is why a country situated in the Middle East (far away from the natural and imagined borders of Europe) has been participating since 1973 in a competition founded with the vision of culturally unifying Europe. This is a country that, by defining itself as a "Jewish state" built on the "promised land" and "the only democracy in the Middle East", has claimed to have origin and roots firmly established in the Middle East.

Why do then Israeli artists sing in Eurovision? Why do Israeli football teams play in UEFA championships and compete with European teams for FIFA World Cup qualifications? Why are Israeli doctors members of the European Forum of Medical Associations, which is currently headed by an Israeli official?

The answer is simple: because Israel was founded as and continues to be a European settler colony.

Israel is one of the last remaining European colonies, along with places........

© Al Jazeera