Music, peace and a flicker of hope in Israel

Battle of the bands: Does music have the power to soar above politics and conflict? © Getty

Can Eurovision help solve the Israel-Palestine conflict? An absurd suggestion, perhaps. But this weekend, all eyes are on Tel Aviv as it hosts the world’s biggest, glitziest talent contest.

Eurovision is back. This Saturday, in Tel Aviv, Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke will soar through the stars. The French LGBTQ YouTuber Bilal Hassani will sing an anthem about self-acceptance.

But one band will undoubtedly stand out above the rest: Iceland’s Hatari. Their song translates as “Hatred Will Prevail”.

Eurovision bans any political songs. But Hatari argues, “You can’t go to Tel Aviv and perform on that stage without breaking the rules of Eurovision.” Why?

In 1947, after the horrors of the Holocaust, the UN declared that the area known as Palestine should be split into two separate states: one for Jews, and one for Arabs. The Arab population did not agree. In 1948, Jewish leaders declared Israel an independent Jewish state. This triggered a war with the Arab Palestinians.

Several more wars have followed. Today, Palestinians live in Gaza, the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem. Their movements are heavily restricted. violence regularly flares up.

Palestinians say they are being held hostage by Israel. Meanwhile, Israel says it has a right to defend itself from violent protesters.

The conflict colours every part of daily life in the region. Few have confidence that a peace deal will be agreed any time soon.

Dare to dream?

So where does Eurovision fit into this? Israel is hoping to change international opinion by presenting itself as a tourist destination. Eurovision was created to help bring peace to Europe through music. Perhaps it could do the same in Israel?

Probably not, say experts. The conflict has already lasted several generations. Its roots are even older: both sides claim a right to the ancient capital city of Jerusalem. Finding a peaceful solution has been impossible for decades. It will take more than some sequins to get us there.

You Decide

  1. Should we take Eurovision seriously?

Activities

  1. Eurovision’s theme this year is “Dare to dream”. In groups, write your own song inspired by those words.

Some People Say...

“In the Middle East, it is clear that peace will never be reached without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Ahmed Zewail

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Eurovision has caused controversy from all sides in Israel. Some Jews have complained that it is taking place on a Saturday (the Sabbath). Meanwhile, Palestinians accuse Israel of using Eurovision to “whitewash” its image.
What do we not know?
Whether there will be any protests at the event itself. (Last year, a protester came on stage during the UK’s performance.)

Word Watch

Eurovision
The contest was first held in 1956, a year before the European Economic Community was created. The latter eventually became the EU, and both were conceived as a way to bring peace to Europe. It was thought that an annual song contest would encourage a healthy outlet for nationalism.
Holocaust
The murder of six million Jewish people in Europe by Nazi Germany.
Jerusalem
An ancient city which is considered holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.