Eurovision 2019 has come and gone, but the matter of broken lives remains.
Hidden away on a relatively quiet street in north London, there is a new club called Favela. Still yet to possess its own website and having a somewhat obscure venue on the London club scene, it has been recently refurbished in order to accommodate live music events. Situated just around the corner from the bustling epicentre of Camden, Favela, a Brazilian-inspired dancing hub, hosted an evening inspired by one of the most pressing matters of our time: the Palestine case.
Aptly, albeit awkwardly, named, the Not for Eurovision Party for Palestine, it entertained a huge throb of over 500 dissenting people on the night of the Eurovision Song Contest — a resounding outcry against the racist apartheid regime of Israel.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), alongside the voices of Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) group welcomed renowned artists for the cause, such as Lowkey, Mic Righteous, Wolf Alice, Dave Randall, the Hawiyya Dabke dance group and comedian Jenan Younis to celebrate Palestine against the Israeli government’s hostility. While the crowds of Eurovision supporters, approximately numbering seven million in the UK alone, enjoyed performances from Madonna and dozens of other artists, the cries of Palestine could be heard from this small and seemingly inconspicuous club in Mornington Crescent.
The controversial nature of this year’s Eurovision is a stark reminder of the realities of life for those under the hard hand of oppression. Contrary to previous years of Eurovision, where at least 25 per cent of UK viewers claimed only to watch it for its comical and engaging commentary, this year it was forced to become political, inconsistent with its aim to be a non-political actor on the world stage.
Located just 92km from the Gaza strip, Tel Aviv, although the location for one of the biggest media events of the year, is also the centre of worldwide contention and dispute. What used to be the largest city in Palestine, is now an Israeli stronghold. This is where over 5,000 people chose to travel to hear live music that would be broadcast all over the world. Oblivious to the suffering of innocent Palestinian refugees in and around Tel Aviv and across Israel, people clapped and cheered at their television screens as the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence won first place.
What a sad state of affairs for those just a few kilometres from the action. Those who have nothing to celebrate. Those without the freedom to travel, living under the ominous threat of death or torture by Israeli soldiers, forced behind stone walls and kept there with limited access to electricity and water, medical care, education and jobs.
How appalling then that there were people celebrating such a frivolous event, within such a short distance of people who dread to let their children leave their home for fear of arbitrary arrest and injurious, prejudice or racist experiences that haunt their lives every single day. It is truly difficult to describe, in words, the utterly abhorrent violation and discrimination of innocent people that has taken place in Israel since the Nakba in 1948. For those of us who know little about the situation of Palestine, surely now that Eurovision has shone such a clear, glaring light on that part of the world, it is time to educate ourselves and stand up for justice.
At Favela, from 8:30pm on the night of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, 500 supporters of Palestine did just that, alongside the approval of thousands of others across the world joining us in the boycott. Standing up against abuse, oppression, injustice, brutality and suffering, the crowds that night were a testimony to a Palestine that has not been forgotten, despite governments across the world closing their eyes to the horrors. Despite the media unjustifiably dubbing the existence of pro-Palestine movements as anti-Semitic — we maintain that it is not, nor has it ever been, a question of religion. It is a question of fairness, of what is right and moral, a question of the universality of human rights, of the championing of freedom, of the integrity and decency of human life to support one another, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and political views.
These words may be criticised, misinterpreted and condemned, but as a citizen of the world, just like every other person on the soil of our beautiful planet, of the community that includes everyone, I stand by them, and I hope my readers will stand with me too.