One Question Quiz
Israel’s Eurovision representative this year, Eden Golan (Image: Tina Tiller)
Israel’s Eurovision representative this year, Eden Golan (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyMarch 7, 2024

Help Me Hera: Should I boycott Eurovision?

Israel’s Eurovision representative this year, Eden Golan (Image: Tina Tiller)
Israel’s Eurovision representative this year, Eden Golan (Image: Tina Tiller)

Would I be a hypocrite if I let my love of Eurovision overpower my hatred of oppression?

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Dear Hera,

For many years, I have been watching the Eurovision competition, sacredly following the contestants and songs, with a group of friends and acquaintances that has grown yearly.

This year a lot of Eurovision fans are calling for a boycott of the show because they didn’t kick Israel out of the competition, calling them out on hypocrisy because they did the exact opposite in the Russia-Ukraine situation back in 2022.

Now, needless to say, I am horrified by the war going on in the Middle East and will never be on the oppressor’s side, but is my Eurovision love and my reluctance to boycott it just another form of hypocrisy?


A Moral Pop Fan

Dear Moral Pop Fan,

These days, my newsfeed is one long obituary column. Every morning I wake up to footage of Israel bombing hospitals, bakeries, universities, and refugee camps. Three days ago, the IDF opened fire on a group of Palestinians waiting for flour, killing 112 people, injuring over 750 more, and driving over the remaining bodies with their tanks. They repeated their strategy again this morning. I say strategy because it’s increasingly clear that this isn’t mindless collateral damage, but an intentional campaign of collective punishment, inflicted on a starving and captive population. 

Through it all, Israel has lied and lied. They’ve said every hospital is a secret Hamas outpost. That the Arabic days of the week are the names of terrorists. That the mass killing of Palestinians is the necessary cost of securing peace. It’s hard to understand the actions of Israel as anything other than explicitly genocidal. Over 30,000 Palestinians have already been killed by Israeli forces, more than 10,000 of those children. The deaths are accumulating faster than statisticians can verify them. Over 1,000 children have had both limbs amputated, many without anaesthetic, one of the many items Israel won’t allow into Palestine, alongside cancer medications, water purification tablets, maternity kits, crutches and sleeping bags. I’ve seen more footage of dead bodies in the last five months than the entire rest of my life. Bodies crushed under rubble. Hanging from fences. Scooped into plastic bags. The documentary evidence is incontrovertible and overwhelming. 

The question isn’t whether the violence is justified. There is no moral justification for the atrocities Israel is committing in Palestine. We all know it’s wrong. We all want a ceasefire. The question is what we, as individuals, can do about it. 

It’s difficult to know how to act in the face of such overwhelming wrongness. Especially when so many of our politicians and media outlets are so complicit, issuing lukewarm warnings while simultaneously sending money to Israel, or describing the intentional mass killings of civilians as “chaotic incidents”. But we don’t have to wonder, because Palestinians have repeatedly asked us for several things, including:

  • Speaking out about Palestine, attending protests and raising awareness.
  • Exerting pressure on our politicians by demanding a ceasefire.
  • Calling out media organisations for using intentionally misleading and detached language that bears a stronger resemblance to Henry James describing a floral armchair than recounting a massacre. 
  • Participating in BDS.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It’s a Palestinian-led campaign, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, which calls for people to boycott a small group of strategically chosen consumer products, all of which have links to the IDF or Israeli state. For those wanting to read more about BDS, you can visit their website, or read this explanation on The Spinoff. The current consumer targets of BDS are Puma, Siemens, Axa Insurance, HP, Sodastream, Israeli fruits and vegetables, Ahava Cosmetics, and Sabra (sold in NZ as Obela.) 

In addition to consumer boycotts, there are also cultural boycotts. Lorde cancelling her concert in Israel in 2018 is an example of a cultural boycott, as is Sally Rooney refusing to permit the translation of her books into Hebrew by a publishing offshoot of the Israeli government. This week, the BDS campaign has asked people to boycott Eurovision.

Lorde cancelled a Tel Aviv concert in 2018 after being urged to by fans (Photo: Getty)

Boycotts alone aren’t enough to secure a ceasefire. But there’s no denying that they’re a powerful form of economic, political and social protest. They were effective in the South African anti-apartheid movement, and they’re effective now. So effective, Israel has repeatedly tried to ban them.

But I haven’t really answered your question. You’re not asking whether war is good. You’re asking whether your reluctance to participate in the boycott makes you a hypocrite. 

I guess my response is that we’re all hypocrites, one way or another. It’s almost impossible to participate in global capitalism and entirely avoid profiting from the suffering of others. But acknowledging our hypocrisy isn’t an excuse to surrender to it. It just means we need to be more strategic and intentional about what we’re willing to fight for.  

Most New Zealanders are shocked by what’s happening in Gaza but don’t really know what to do about it. We also take a perverse, self-congratulatory delight in our global irrelevance. Almost every comment thread about protest action in New Zealand includes someone saying “I’m sure Netanyahu is shaking in his boots”. People love adopting this position because it allows them to look down on others for being so gauche as to care about something, while simultaneously absolving them of the need to take a principled stand. 

I’m not immune to the cultural cringe. In the past few months, I’ve been to several protests and always feel weirdly embarrassed about shouting in public, even in a crowd of shouting people. But my feelings of humiliation, just like your feelings of hypocrisy, don’t matter here. When the stakes are so high, our personal sheepishness is irrelevant. 

It seems to me that a lot of your reluctance to participate in the boycott is social. You’ve built a close-knit community of friends around Eurovision. You’re not just switching hummus brands. You’re missing out on a meaningful yearly tradition. It’s easy to boycott something you don’t care about. It’s much harder to give up something you love, even if that thing is watching men yodelling in leotards.

A line of dark blue card suit symbols – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades

I bet you’re not alone in your discomfort. I bet there are lots of people in your group who feel similarly conflicted. So why not discuss it with them? Recruit some like-minded people, and organise an alternative event. Livestream an entire season of Stars in Their Eyes. Set up a karaoke fundraiser for the PCRF. Jesus Christ. Don’t come knocking at my door, asking how to have a good time. All I’m saying is this boycott doesn’t have to alienate you from your community if you don’t want it to. 

I encourage you to boycott Eurovision. Not because refusing to do so makes you a hypocrite. Not even because it will ease your ideological discomfort. But because in the end, our feelings don’t matter, our actions do. 

I think it might help you to reframe your dilemma. Self-abnegation isn’t the point of the exercise here. Try not to think of the boycott as something you’re denying yourself. Boycotts, at their heart, are expressions of solidarity and friendship. Think of the boycott as just this: an expression of solidarity and friendship you’re able to extend to the people of Palestine.

The gesture might seem so small as to be almost irrelevant. But every act of protest matters. Last week, an inmate at a California prison worked for 136 hours to donate $17.74 to Gaza. The week before, Aaron Bushnell, a member of the US Air Force, set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy. Given such extreme acts of sacrifice, buying a different brand of gas canister to carbonate your flavoured water seems ridiculous. But that’s the power of a boycott. Small, individual actions, when undertaken collectively, can make a big impact. 

It’s hard to feel like our actions matter when the stakes are so terrible and so high. But there’s power in solidarity. And boycotts aren’t forever. Boycotts only last until the boycott works. I hope one day you’ll get the pleasure of seeing a free Palestine perform in the Eurovision Song Contest, content in the knowledge you stood your ground, however small and insignificant that piece of ground might have seemed at the time. 

In friendship and solidarity,


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