Year 24
Month 06
Day 07
dividerNews ArchivedividerIsrael is ‘Weaponising Culture’, Erasing Palestinian History with Eurovision
Israel is ‘Weaponising Culture’, Erasing Palestinian History with Eurovision

By Nasim Ahmed


Calls to boycott this year’s Eurovision song contest have focused on Israel’s brutal occupation. Mercury Prize-winning rock band Wolf Alice, for example, gave their backing by evoking images of Israel’s domination over Palestinians saying that it was “weaponising culture” and that the Zionist state was a “serial human rights abuser” who “use culture to art wash” and “whitewash over their human rights abuses”. British ban Slovo cited apartheid – again with Israel’s discriminatory laws in the West Bank in mind – and elected not only to boycott the event but also to release a song called “I don’t sing for apartheid”.

A similar message was echoed by an Israeli group known as Breaking the Silence who called for Eurovision goers to experience “the full picture” of Israel’s occupation by taking a tour to the West Bank city of Hebron, where the apartheid system of domination imposed on 300,000 Palestinians have made their lives punishingly difficult. The NGO, founded by former members of the Israeli army, erected a giant billboard on a highway between Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv – where this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is being held – in a bid to highlight Israel’s now 52-year-old occupation of the Palestinian territories.

For Palestinians in Gaza and the millions of others across the region that were made stateless by Israel’s ethnic cleansing in 1948, the Eurovision contest, which coincides with the 71st Nakba anniversary, will evoke long and bitter memories. Eurovision will take place in a venue that’s only two hour’s drive from the protestors in an area known to Palestinians as the location of the village of Al-Shaykh Muwannis and the euro village housing tourists, located on Al-Manshiyya neighbourhood of Jaffa. For Palestinians these areas arouse powerful memories of violent displacement, expulsion and the erasure of their history.

Erasure of Palestinian history
Israel’s creation in 1948 kick-started a desperate attempt to remap and erase Palestinian history.  As Ramzy Baroud points out, during the British mandate, the colonial authorities were using predominantly Arabic names of localities, towns and villages; 3,700 such places were named. By contrast, there were just 200 Hebrew toponyms, most of them being names of Jewish settlements, including new ones that were being built under the patronage of the Zionist movement. This, according to Baroud, was quite indicative of the demographic distribution and land ownership in Palestine at the beginning of the British mandate in the 1920s where Jews, including newly arrived settlers, were just 11 per cent of the total population.

However, immediately after the creation of the state of Israel, against the wishes of the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab population of the Middle East, a vicious campaign to “remap” Palestine was launched. Baroud goes on to explain that soon after, a government commission was created and tasked with renaming everything Palestinian so the new state can lay its claim on towns, villages and various other geographical areas.

The village of Al-Shaykh Muwannis and the Al-Manshiyya neighbourhood endured a similar fate. This erasure is often exposed to make a mockery of Israel’s attempt to deny that Palestine ever existed; that it contained 600 Palestinian towns and villages that were razed to the ground; that half the population were expelled to artificially create a Jewish majority, and make way for a state comprising of indigenous Palestinian Jews and European migrants with Jewish heritage.


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