The Gaza Strip is to hold its own Eurovision alternative this week in protest at Israel’s hosting of the popular music competition.
The “We Are Not Numbers” movement has launched “Gazavision”, a local song contest featuring youth from the besieged Gaza Strip. Viewers can vote for one of six contestants, who have been chosen from 27 finalists. The winner will be announced on Saturday, to coincide with the Eurovision final taking place in Tel Aviv.
In a statement, We Are Not Numbers explained that “Israel is the 2019 host for the Eurovision song contest, shamelessly using it as part of its Brand Israel campaign to whitewash and distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians”.
It added: “In response, We Are Not Numbers is saying ‘no’ to normalization and using this opportunity to showcase some of the emerging talent in Gaza.”
Among the six finalists is 26-year-old Ahmed Al-Daoor, who We Are Not Numbers describes as “a tenacious dreamer”. Born in Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, Ahmed explains that he always wanted to be a musician and singer: “I wanted to study music so badly. I was dying for that dream to come true. I was counting the days and nights to graduate [high school] and start the first steps on the path of my passion. I wanted to be a singer!”
After completing his degree in engineering, Ahmed finally got the chance to travel to Egypt to study in the High Institute for Arab Music, an experience which made him feel “reborn”. His Gazavision entry, “Ard Elhayah” or “The Land of Life”, talks of a “land wiping [away] the tears of fatigue and singing for life” and vows that “my homeland won’t be lost”.
Gazavision is not the only Eurovision alternative being hosted this week. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – which has called on artists, viewers and concert goers alike to boycott the contest – will on Saturday broadcast its own “Globalvision” event.
Taking place in Bethlehem, London, Haifa and Dublin, Globalvision will feature Palestinian, Israeli and international artists such as rapper Mahmood Jrere from the hip-hop trio Dam and Arab-Israeli artist Tamer Nafar, who during Israel’s general election last month released a track urging Palestinian citizens of Israel to go out and vote.
Also in London, Palestine Solidarity Campaign is holding a “Party for Palestine” featuring London-based artist and activist Lowkey, as well as British band Wolf Alice who have made headlines for boycotting Eurovision.
Scores of international groups and celebrities have heeded the call to boycott, including a number of UK Palestine societies and hundreds of musicians who this week signed a petition against the contest. Information Coordinator for BDS, Rita Abu Ghosh, said that Israel is using Eurovision to “to whitewash its crimes against the Palestinians”, adding that Palestinian and Arab broadcasting bodies have sent a message to European radio and TV unions asking them to cancel all advertisements and promotion material related to the contest.