Official letters are to be issued from Derry City & Strabane District Council to RTE and the BBC calling on them to boycott this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.
Derry City & Strabane District Council voted by a majority to proceed with the move following a motion tabled by Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy.
Opposing the move, DUP Alderman David Ramsey claimed that the majority of the council now supported anti-Semitism - a claim strongly rejected by other elected representatives.
Colr. Duffy proposed that the council support calls for Ireland and other participants not to take part in the 2019 Eurovision, which takes place in Tel Aviv in May, in accordance with the local authority’s own previously adopted Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) policy.
The council will now write to RTE and BBC “expressing concern at the continued slaughter and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, urging a boycott.
Colr. Duffy said: “The arts, music and indeed, sport, have a key role to play in sending a strong message internationally in rejection of the brutality carried out against Palestinians by Israeli state forces, who I understand, have been given 500 free tickets for the rehearsal event, even though it is billed as a nonpolitical event.” She added that on May 14, 2018, just days after Israel won the competition, Israeli soldiers shot dead 62 unarmed Palestinian protestors in Gaza, including six children and injured hundreds more mostly with live ammunition.
“Amnesty International has condemned Israel’s shoot to kill policy and Human Rights Watch has described the killings as unlawful and calculated.”
Ald. Ramsey said the council was “going to waste two stamps basically, because let’s face it, this will be going ahead.”
He claimed: “It has got to the stage now where the majority of this council actually support anti-Semitism; it supports hostility, prejudice and discrimination against Jewish people. Locally because of the rise in anti-Semitism, Jews and their religion have been attacked. No lessons learned here about what attitudes like this lead to - the exodus of many thousands of Protestants from the west bank due to the terrorism of this city for years.”
Borrowing a line from Dana’s Eurovision winning 1970 entry, SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said the last speaker seemed to be applying the “all kinds of everything” approach by linking things that happened in Derry with the motion. Colr. Reilly added: “We are conscious of the comments the proposer made regarding the incidents after Israel won last year and the violence in which a number of Palestinians were killed. Earlier today, the UN in relation to that incident, said it feels the Israeli forces may be guilty of war crimes, so it is appropriate that people in this chamber and indeed those involved in the contest and representing Ireland in the past, have all come out and encouraged Ireland not to take part because of the location.”
Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly described Ald Ramsey’s comments as “disgusting” and “unbelievable” and said the motion was “not anti-Semitic, it is not anti-Jewish, it’s just the decent thing to do.”
Independent Colr. Darren Reilly said people claiming the motion was a stunt or meaningless should look at the actions of Dunnes Stores workers in Ireland during the Apartheid in South Africa, when they refused to handle South African produce. “We have to be making small gestures to build awareness of what was happening and I saw something today while I was researching for this motion. Somebody had it up on Facebook that they searched for Israeli children and what came up in the bar below was children’s books, children’s, movies, children’s cooking recipes, children’s stories. When you actually do the same for Palestinian children it comes up child murdered, child shot, child beaten, child prisoner. In comparison, when you look at that, yous cannot sit with blinkers on and believe that this nation is anything but an Apartheid state.”
DUP Ald. Hilary McClintock listed IRA bombings during years the Eurovision was held in Ireland, while UUP Ald. Derek Hussey said there two sides to every story. “Not once have I heard anybody mention atrocities committed against the people of Israel,” he said.
The motion was carried, 27 voting for and eight against.