Gareth Roberts Gareth Roberts

Anti-Israel virtue signallers should leave Eurovision alone

Pro-Palestinian supporters in Sweden protest against Israel's inclusion in Eurovision (Credit: Getty images)

The 2024 Eurovision Song Contest – the final of which will be held in Malmö on 11 May – is the latest peculiar target of pompous virtue signallers. The hosts of the UK’s largest Eurovision screening have announced their decision to scrap the event. The reason? Israel, of course.

‘We have collectively decided not to screen the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest this year while Israel remains in the competition,’ the independent Rio cinema in Dalston, east London, said in a statement. Reminder: they are talking here, not about the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the Good Friday Agreement, but The Eurovision Song Contest – which generates such excitement in Britain solely because it’s an excuse to get absolutely potted with your pals while laughing at foreigners.

This pontificating about Eurovision is utterly irrelevant

An open letter inevitably followed the cancellation of the screening, with 450 ‘queer artists’ (whatever that means) writing to this year’s UK’s entrant Olly Alexander: ‘We ask you to heed the call from Palestinians and commit not to perform at Eurovision while it provides cultural cover for an ongoing genocide’.

In reply, Alexander and several other contestants in the silly jamboree issued their own grandiloquent statement, kicking off with the absolute humdinger: ‘We want to begin by acknowledging the privilege of taking part in Eurovision’. Can these people hear themselves? Anyway they’re staying put, because ‘we feel that it is our duty to create and uphold this space, with a strong hope that it will inspire greater compassion and empathy’.

Over the decades, Eurovision has inspired many emotions – chiefly mirth – but compassion and empathy haven’t really figured, in my observation. In the St Matthew Passion, or Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique? Yes. Eurovision? No.

Inevitably up chipped one of the usual suspects, tweeting to Alexander, ‘You’re a beloved queer icon. History will celebrate you if take a stand. Don’t let Israel use this as a PR stunt as it commits genocide.’

I’m wary of looking to the future, but something tells me I’m on to a pretty good bet that the history books of the future, when they come to examine the events of 2024, will have bigger fish to fry than the participation of the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The reality is that all this pontificating about Eurovision is utterly irrelevant. And why are these people singling out Israel anyway? I don’t recall The New Seekers or Lulu being pressed to declare their stance on the Tet Offensive or the Yom Kippur War. Nobody ever threatened Clodagh Rodgers that history would judge her.

There’s something different about the backlash to Israel’s response to the October 7 attack. There have already been a number of very odd boycotts – or calls for boycotts – arising from the conflict. Outlets of the Spanish fast-fashion chain Zara were targeted by our friends the ‘pro-Palestinian peace protesters’ merely for staging a modelling shoot against picturesque ruins, months before October 7 or Israel’s response to it. Marks and Spencer was next, when they Instagrammed a photo of a Christmas cracker in a fire. Said cracker was adorned with shiny green and red paper, colours not unreasonably connected with Christmas, but less reasonably to the Palestinian flag (and many other flags, but nobody seemed to suggest M&S was planning a ‘genocide’ of the Portuguese). Nobody quite knows why McDonald’s and Coca Cola are frequent mob targets. Presumably it’s their connection to The Great Satan.

At least Israel is actually taking part in Eurovision, though with a bland and generic song: ‘Hurricane’ performed by Eden Golan. This entry is somewhat appropriate: it’s a forgettable year for Eurovision all round, with endless interchangeable electro-ditties that sound a lot like they could’ve been rustled up on music AI app Suno. (In fact, I created one of these myself by scribbling some doggerel about ‘I, Claudius’ in 45 seconds – and frankly it’s better than all of them.)

But while the music will be worse than ever, this backlash has provided one good reason to watch Eurovision: doing so will send a signal to the pompous puritans who think boycotting a song contest will achieve anything. Such glorious fripperies beloved by us gays as Eurovision (and drag) were once a laugh, a chance to be rude and naughty. Now they’re increasingly fraught, like a pantomime run by the Stasi. For the love of Wogan, can we all just lighten up?

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