العالم عاقب روسيا على غزو أوكرانيا. ينبغي أن تُعاقَب إسرائيل أيضاً.
27 mars 2024

Amid the ongoing destruction of Gaza, many activists, artists and celebrities are pushing to pressure Israel into a ceasefire by excluding it from sporting and entertainment events.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the international community swiftly responded by imposing various measures to hold the country accountable. Moscow was banned from artistic and sporting events all over Europe and most of the globe. Russia has also faced heavy economic sanctions and banking restrictions, and neighboring countries have even banned the entrance of cars with Russian license plates.

Many activists, artists, celebrities, and members of civil society say that Israel should now get the same treatment. Israeli government officials have made clear calls for the genocide of Palestinian people. Over the past three months, the nation has been responsible for the bombardment of hospitals and civil infrastructure, the massacre of entire families, and an environmental catastrophe, which has triggered widespread hunger.

This is why more than 1,400 artists in Finland have joined Icelandic musicians in calling for Israel to be banned from the next edition of Eurovision, the biggest and possibly most important pop music festival on the continent. The globally televised event takes place in May.

According to the artists, a country that commits war crimes and continues a military occupation cannot use music as a platform to clean up its image. With over 30,000 Palestinians violently killed by the Israeli army, and more than 100 journalists killed in an attempt to silence the press, more and more voices can be heard demanding the country be held accountable and face repercussions for the country’s actions.

The Finnish artists say that if Israel isn't banned from Eurovision, Finland’s public broadcaster Yle should withdraw from the competition. A similar campaign is underway in Ireland. Irish citizens have flooded the Irish broadcast company RTE with emails demanding a boycott of Eurovision due to Israel’s participation. In other countries, individual artists have also called for a boycott.

Israel has been a participant in the contest since 1973 and has won four times, most recently in 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. Interestingly, Israel had its participation threatened in the event due to controversies surrounding the song chosen for the event. The song, “October Rain” is filled with political content praising Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Ultimately, the song was revised. The melody remained the same, but the title and the lyrics were changed.

Meanwhile, calls for boycott can also be heard in the sporting world. Athletic brand Puma announced in December that it will end its sponsorship of Israel’s football team. Despite the timing, the company states that the move is unrelated to the war in Gaza. 12 football associations in the Middle East have also called FIFA to ban Israel from competitions, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

In the United Kingdom, BBC presenter and former football star Gary Lineker retweeted a post calling for a global boycott of Israel sports (although he later deleted the post). The International Ice Hockey Federation also decided to ban Israel from competitions a few days before the U20 men’s world championship due to "safety" concerns, and on New Year's Eve, the Jordan Football Association called for sanctions against Israel.

A petition set forward by Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), an international political pressure group led by former Greek economy minister Yanis Varoufakis, has gathered more than 94,000 signatures. The petition calls for "an immediate suspension of Israel from participation in all international sports until it fully complies with international law and sports regulations."

The call asks European and international authorities such as UEFA, FIFA, FIBA, and the International Olympic Committee to act fast and condemn Israel’s violence against Palestinians.

Israel’s actions have extended beyond Gaza. In the Occupied West Bank, Israeli troops have been abducting and killing civilians, Lebanese cities have been bombarded, and journalists have been killed for covering such war crimes. Israel is spurring destabilization in the entire region yet continues to be welcomed at events worldwide.

Hence,  calls for boycott, in line with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that has successfully lobbied and campaigned against Israel’s apartheid regime since 2005, are surfacing and gaining momentum. But, it is crucial for more voices to unite and understand the urgency of isolating Israel and putting pressure on its government to respect international law and humanitarian law, as well as countless United Nation resolutions.

And unlike in Russia, external pressure could work against Israel, a country that tries to sell itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, an open and European-like country, that respects human rights and is fully integrated with other Western democracies.

The irony, of course, is that after the en-masse migration of Jews from Europe to Palestine, settlers and colonizers used force, terrorism, intimidation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide to form a state and have prevented, for over 70 years, Palestinians from having their rights respected.

Notably, Israel is not the only country facing boycott calls. Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, is also facing pressure from different sectors of society. Over 1,000 artists and cultural workers worldwide have joined a call from Strike Germany to boycott Germany due to its stance on Israel’s war on Gaza.

They have given up on collaborating with German state-funded associations, saying that these institutions behave with the logic of McCarthyism, suppressing the freedom of expression of anyone supporting Palestine.

Such boycott campaigns denounce the double standard of international sporting and cultural organizations that have banned Russia due to its unlawful invasion of Ukraine and crimes against humanity but turn a blind eye to Israel’s crimes.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian voices have been censored, particularly in Germany and the United States, after being accused of being antisemitic. It’s noteworthy that several of these voices are anti-Zionist Jewish activists. 

Not everyone is willing to wait until a final decision from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s genocidal practices, though more countries have been joining the application. According to data compiled by Kings College professor Alonso Gurmendi, Slovenia is the latest country to support the petition. Several countries from the so-called Global South have also sided with South Africa and Palestine.

Recently, Nicaragua filed a lawsuit against Germany at the ICJ, alleging violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention, and the 1949 Geneva Conventions (and Additional Protocols) in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly Gaza. Added to this are critical positions from Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia. The latter's president, Gustavo Petro, announced on Feb. 29 that he would suspend the purchase of arms from Israel, saying that "the whole world should blockade Netanyahu.”

If Israel uses bombs to silence the press in Gaza, elsewhere in the world, the country and its allies use the false excuse of antisemitism to silence dissent. The calls for boycott are a much-needed response. Athletes and artists are raising their voices all over the world to demand accountability and justice, forcing the media and institutions alike to hear their voices and consider their pleas.

Israel must be held accountable for its crimes and the genocide it promotes against Palestinians. Being banned from sporting and cultural life is a crucial initial step, preventing the normalization of the crimes committed and serving as a catalyst for change.  

The views in all articles in this blog and site belong to their authors.
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