Palestinians plan Eurovision alternative

Left-wing Israelis hold a banner during a rally against Eurovision in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Pro-Palestinian campaigners plan an alternative song contest to draw attention to the country’s occupation. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2019
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Palestinians plan Eurovision alternative

  • Campaigners do not want to simply oppose the Israeli event but host a positive alternative

RAMALLAH: Israel hosts the Eurovision song contest this week and the thousands of visitors who come with it, but Palestinians are planning an alternative they hope draws attention to the country’s occupation.

The alternative to Eurovision, called “Globalvision,” will be held on Saturday, the same day of the song contest’s finals in Tel Aviv.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners say the idea for it came from the fact that they do not want to simply oppose the Israeli event but host a positive alternative.

Globalvision parties are expected in London, Dublin, the Palestinian city of Ramallah and Haifa in northern Israel, which has a significant Arab population.

No European TV channels are expected to feature the events but they will be streamed online, with organizers encouraging people to tune in instead of watching Eurovision.

Among those expected to take part is influential British musician and producer Brian Eno, along with prominent Palestinian musicians.

The Haifa event will feature a drag queen and other performers who will fulfil the desire for the famed Eurovision kitsch, said Najwan Berekdar, one of the organizers.

She said the aim was to create an “alternative musical event that highlights the original values of Eurovision, which is inclusion and diversity.”

Tel Aviv hosts the largest Gay Pride event in the Middle East every year and the city has a cosmopolitan feel.

This tolerance of homosexuality is often trumpeted by Israeli officials, who compare it to many Arab states where homosexuality is criminalized.

Critics say this amounts to “pinkwashing” — seeking to use its pro-gay attitudes to downplay its occupation of Palestinian territory.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never accepted by the international community.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in communities considered illegal under international law.

“Israel is using art and culture to whitewash occupation,” Berekdar said.

Apart from Globalvision, Palestinians have been seeking to have their voices heard in other ways.

Madonna has received criticism for her planned performance at Eurovision on Saturday, including a plea to cancel from the mother of a Palestinian journalist shot dead by Israeli forces during protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border last year.

The US pop star has since said she will reject boycott calls and headline the event.

Anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence has also erected a billboard in Israel with the slogan “Dare to Dream of Freedom,” playing on this year’s Eurovision slogan “Dare to Dream.”

And in Gaza on Tuesday, musicians performed in the shadow of a building destroyed by an Israeli air strike in response to Palestinian rocket fire earlier this month.

Tuesday night saw hackers succeed in flashing a fake rocket attack warning during the webcast of a Eurovision semifinal in an
incident Israel’s public broadcaster blamed on Hamas, the
Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip.

There was however no comment from Hamas on the allegation.

Back in Tel Aviv, Israeli police have increased their presence ahead of the event with a spokesman saying “hundreds of police officers, special patrol units and private security guards (are) securing the beach area, Eurovillage and the area of the expo.”

On stage in Tel Aviv, all eyes will be on Iceland’s entry for a potential protest.

The band Hatari, who dress in so-called BDSM outfits — bondage clothing including leather and whips — have been critical of Israel.

They have previously challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Glima, a Nordic folk wrestling match, and could still seek to highlight the Palestinians’ plight during the extravaganza.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.