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Olly Alexander urged to boycott Eurovision over Israel participation

Olly Alexander urged to boycott Eurovision over Israel participation

More than 450 queer artists, individuals and organisations have signed an open letter calling on Olly Alexander to withdraw from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest because of the inclusion of Israel in the competition.

The group, who call themselves Queers for Palestine, include the actor Maxine Peake, band Goat Girl and novelist and playwright Sarah Schulman.

They argue that Israel’s presence in the competition helps to normalise the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Addressing Alexander directly, they write: “We share the vision of queer joy and abundance you’ve offered through your music, and share your belief in collective liberation for all. In this spirit, we ask you to heed the Palestinian call to withdraw from Eurovision... There can be no party with a state committing apartheid and genocide.​​​​

“At a time when accountability is so urgently needed, Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision would enable and cover up its war crimes and crimes against humanity. Understanding the propaganda value of its participation in the contest to artwash its ongoing genocide, Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, stated ‘it’s important for Israel to appear in Eurovision.’”

Olly Alexander performing live in 2019 (Getty Images)
Olly Alexander performing live in 2019 (Getty Images)

Last year, the BBC was urged to drop Alexander as the UK’s official Eurovision entrant after it emerged he had signed a letter describing Israel as an “apartheid regime”.

At the time the revelation prompted criticism from the Conservative Party, with a source accusing the BBC of “either a massive oversight or sheer brass neck” in selecting Alexander.

However, The Daily Telegraph reported that the BBC did not plan to take any action as Alexander signed the letter before he was revealed to be the UK’s act.

The earlier letter, which Alexander signed, was published by LGBT+ organisation Voices4 London on 20 October last year.

It was titled: “1,400+ Queer Individuals and Organisations Sign an International Statement of Solidarity with Palestine.”

Coming in the wake of military action by Israel in Gaza after the 7 October attacks by Hamas in Israel, the letter reads: “We are watching a genocide take place in real time. Death overflows from our phone screens and into our hearts. And, as a queer community, we cannot sit idly by while the Israeli government continues to wipe out entire lineages of Palestinian families.

“We cannot untangle these recent tragedies from a violent history of occupation. Current events simply are an escalation of the state of Israel’s apartheid regime, which acts to ethnically cleanse the land. Since the violent creation of the state 75 years ago, the Israeli military and Israeli settlers have continued to terrorise Palestinian people.”

Around the same time, Eurovision organisers rejected calls for Israel to be removed from the 2024 competition.