No sacred cows

The hypocrisy of Ken Loach’s Eurovision boycott

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

The Guardian last week published a ‘we, the undersigned’ letter from 50 ‘artists of conscience’ urging the BBC to boycott this year’s Eurovision Song Contest because it’s taking place in Israel. ‘Eurovision may be light entertainment,’ they wrote, ‘but it is not exempt from human rights considerations — and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.’ The signatories included such luminaries as Julie Christie, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Vivienne Westwood and Ken Loach.

Ken’s inclusion will have come as a surprise to those Israelis who saw his film I, Daniel Blake in Tel Aviv a couple of years ago. Ken’s hypocrisy was pointed out when he chastised Radiohead for ignoring the cultural boycott of Israel. ‘Radiohead need to decide whether they stand with the oppressed or the oppressor,’ he thundered in the Independent. Asked why Ken hadn’t observed the boycott, his producer Rebecca O’Brien said she’d done the deal ‘accidentally’ and without Ken’s knowledge, a claim pooh-poohed by his Israeli distributor Guy Shani. ‘I can’t tell you how absurd this is,’ he said. ‘We’ve been showing his movies for years. I have been paying him money every year.’ Still, let’s give the old booby the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Ken genuinely isn’t aware that nearly all his films have been distributed in Israel.

But surely he can’t claim ignorance when it comes to human rights violations in Venezuela? Hugo Chávez’s security forces were widely condemned for their heavy-handed reaction to anti-government demonstrations across Venezuela in 2014, shooting dead civilians and imprison-ing and torturing dozens of protest leaders and yet the following year Ken was the headline speaker at the East London Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Why the self-righteous tub-thumping about Palestinians, but not a squeak about the beleaguered opposition movement in Venezuela?

The same double standard has been exhibited by the other signatories, several of whom have close links with Jeremy Corbyn. Why didn’t any of them object when the Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by Russia in 2009? It’s not as if Vladimir Putin’s record when it comes to respecting the rights of minorities is exemplary. And what about the human rights abuses that take place at the hands of the Hamas administration in Gaza, where homosexuality is still illegal? The reason Eurovision is being hosted in Tel Aviv is because it was won last year by the Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, an outspoken supporter of the country’s LGBT community. In the intersectional hierarchy of victimhood, the rights of LGBT people are usually ranked above those of refugees, yet not in Israel’s case. For some reason, Israel’s staunch protection of LGBT rights is always ignored by these ‘artists of conscience’.

It’s this inconsistency that undermines the credibility of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is leading the anti-Eurovision campaign. Why is Israel held to a higher moral standard than every other country in the Middle East, including the terrorist-backing Iran? BDS activists compare Israel to apartheid South Africa but that’s just ridiculous. Racial discrimination is illegal in Israel and its non-Jewish Arab minority — about 20 per cent of the population — enjoys equal rights under the law. An Arab Israeli served on its Supreme Court, the ‘Joint List’ (an alliance of several Arab parties) is the third largest party in the Knesset, and there’s a thriving Arab media, which is often very critical of the Israeli government. In a poll in 2014, three-quarters of Arab Israelis said they’d prefer to live under Israeli rule than Palestinian. No doubt they feel the same way about neighbouring Jordan, where the Palestinian minority really are second-class citizens.

When trouble flares on the Gaza Strip, there is always a renewed call for BDS, but no one would be injured if Hamas fighters weren’t intent on breaking through the border fence. The fighters arm themselves with bombs, grenades and guns and hide among protestors, knowing that if a civilian is killed they can exploit it for propaganda purposes.

The signatories of the Guardian letter are just useful idiots, having their strings pulled by an Islamist terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of Israel, as well as die-hard old communists like Corbyn, with their fanatical hatred of the West and its allies. If the BBC heeds their demand to boycott Eurovision I will cancel my licence fee.

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