Mercury prize winning band Wolf Alice have accused Israel of ‘weaponising culture’ and are supporting a boycott of this year’s Eurovision song contest.

Guitarist Joff Oddie told Sky News that Israel, the hosts of this year’s song contest are “serial human rights abusers” who “use culture to art wash, to whitewash over their human rights abuses”.

Israel won the honour of hosting the competition after the Israeli contestant Netta won last year’s contest and it will take place in Tel Aviv between 14-18 May.

Israeli singer Netta won the 2018 contest in Lisbon
Image:
Israeli singer Netta won the 2018 contest in Lisbon

Wolf Alice are among of a number of musicians including Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters who signed an open letter in January calling for a boycott and for the BBC to cancel its coverage of the contest.

Joff Oddie said the letter and the boycott “are responding to a call from Palestinian civil society…….We asked Palestine – ‘do you want us to come?’ ‘No – do not come’ and that’s what you do, you respect the people who are being oppressed”.

Advertisement

Rehearsals for Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv
Image:
Rehearsals for Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions or BDS movement has been calling for a complete cultural boycott of Israel since 2005 insisting the violation of Palestinian human rights can’t be ignored.

During a demonstration against Eurovision in London, protesters told Sky News contest is no exception.

More from Ents & Arts

One said: “Israel has been able to use Eurovision to present what it terms its prettier face and to use this cultural event to distract from the violations of international law and Palestinian human rights that it continues to carry out every day and has done since 1948.”

An anti Eurovision protest in London
Image:
An anti Eurovision protest in London

The BBC say Eurovision “is not a political event” and in a statement said their coverage would continue.

“The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons,” it said.

“Because of this we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”

Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne and Marina Abramovic are among a group of celebrities who’ve signed a counter open letter rejecting the boycott of Eurovision.

Stephen Fry signed the letter in support of Eurovision
Image:
Stephen Fry signed the letter in support of Eurovision

The letter, with over a hundred signatories, stated the competition’s “unifying power” is currently “under attack” and “the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition”.

One of the letter’s signatories, music manager Colin Lester told Sky News those calling for a boycott “are bringing musicians into a position that they are not comfortable with quite frankly.

“These people are not politicians they don’t want to be involved in politics, they are being dragged into it by the BDS and other people that want to create it as a political event. It’s not a political event.”

So far none of the 42 acts taking part in the song contest has pulled out but there are fears the show which attracts hundreds of millions of viewers may be disrupted.