Nakba 2019: Eurovision fails to hide suffering of Palestinians

2015 Nakba Day demonstration in Berlin.

The annual commemoration of al Nakba on May 15 – the 1947 catastrophe when 750,000 Palestinians were evicted from their homes and thousands of Palestinian villages wiped off the map – coincides this year with the Eurovision Song Contest, taking place in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

Ramadan has also begun, and Israeli crackdowns during Ramadan and around al Nakba commemorations are a given. What is different this year is the viciousness of the attacks and Israel's determination that its Eurovision PR showcase will proceed, uninterrupted by questions about its human rights record.

As Palestine continues to endure al Nakba, Israel's dreams for the peerless success of the Eurovision Song Contest have not matched reality. The expected ticket sales and tourism boom have not materialised.

A number of tickets are always reserved for Eurovision officials and visiting dignitaries and rehearsals and semi-finals are almost as popular as the grand final.

To help bulk out the audience in one rehearsal, Israel took the unusual step of reserving 500 tickets for Israeli Defense Force (IDF) personnel. It is not known if they will be uniform, however.

Broadcast partners and performers have faced protests from Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns around the world, but Israel is painting the low ticket sales as an overpricing problem. Palestinians are unable to attend due to Israel’s apartheid wall, and Israel has said it will deny entry to any activists supporting the BDS campaign.

While the Icelandic entry has explicitly called Israel out as an apartheid state, Australia's entrant, Kate Miller-Heidke, has ignored calls to pull out of the competition. Members of the Icelandic band, Hatari spoke about their visit to the besieged West Bank town of Hebron (or al Khalil, if you are Palestinian). Miller-Heidke promoted her visit to an "Arab-Israeli town" instead.

There is an alternative for Eurovision tragics appalled at this year's Israeli extravaganza. Rather than endorse a blatant Israeli propaganda exercise, fans can tune in to Globalvision, which will coincide with Eurovision. Palestinian artists will feature among acts from around the world in an ambitious, live-streamed event. Globalvision has not received any corporate mainstream media coverage, so you would have to be a pretty keen, pro-Palestine sort to have found out about it at all.

The mainstream media's Israel/Palestine script varies little — from “violent clashes on both sides” to “Palestine = violent, Israel = innocent”. The constant portrayal of Israel as the victim and Palestine as the aggressor means that a sovereign Palestinian state would have little chance of being recognised and respected by Israel and the international community.

It is popular to portray the Great March of Return (which has taken place every Friday for more than a year in Gaza) as failing, and al Nakba as a victimhood fantasy.

Those stories, however, are entirely different from the Palestinian point of view. A more accurate perspective can be gained from listening to Palestinians.

Israeli aggression

Starting with the 57th Friday of the Great March of Return and continuing over the weekend of May 4–5, a number of Israeli bombing raids resulted in a devastating number of Palestinian casualties, including at least 25 people killed.

The deaths of two Palestinian toddlers and their pregnant mothers were particularly horrific.

According to Tareq Baconi from the International Crisis Group, Palestinians were being shot at long before any rockets were fired back.

The sequence of events is a bit more complicated than we are led to believe — starting with Israeli snipers and culminating in more than 300 Israeli airstrikes, before an Egypt-brokered ceasefire. Only Israel and the mainstream media abroad continue to peddle the lie that the Israeli state was simply responding to unprovoked rocket attacks with surgical strikes against known militants.

Photographer Mohammed Zanoun's profiles of Great March of Return participants, picked up by the Electronic Intifada, explain why the March is necessary and why they keep going back every Friday.

One participant, 20 year-old Shireen, commented: "With the Great March of Return, the world has become aware that there is a nation demanding its rights and that we will not stay silent. The world should support us. I want to live in a developed, free society, which has no occupation, killing or destruction. We are looking for freedom and we will seize it."

Likewise, 21 year-old Aya said: "I know I could be killed by Israeli snipers, but if I stay home the siege will become worse and the world will forget our cause… We have sent a strong message to the world to support us and to put pressure on the occupier to stop its oppression. We are waiting for that to happen, and we continue protesting."

Australian support for Israel

The opening of an Australian trade and defence office in Jerusalem earlier this year was hardly mentioned outside the Defence Connect website. This further effort to strengthen ties with Israel can be read as a continuing endorsement of Israeli policies and practices against the Palestinians. Australia cannot claim to be objective or impartial about any peace process while it is so clearly invested in the Israeli side of the story.

The venture is "commercially focused" and aimed squarely at consolidating the defence industry and trade relationship with Israel (valued at more than $1.3 billion this year). This is Australia profiting at Palestine's expense.

After shifting its embassy to Jerusalem, cutting aid programs to Palestinians, recognising Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights and continuing its silence over Israeli settlement expansion, the United States has given up any pretence of dialogue with Palestinian negotiators.

The US-brokered "deal of the century", led by Jared Kushner (US President Donald Trump's son-in-law) is not just about profiting at Palestine's expense, but wiping Palestine off the map. The take-it-or-leave-it deal will be announced at the end of Ramadan and, if adopted, will effectively ensure that al Nakba will be permanent.

Under the deal, incentives for developing the Palestinian economy will come at the expense of sovereignty. It is rumoured to include allowing Israel to absorb the West Bank and pressuring Jordan to take responsibility for Palestinian refugees.

However, the deal has been derided as a “farce” in the Israeli daily, Haaretz and “delusional” in The Washington Post.

Unequal

Violence does not flare up between Israelis and Palestinians as though it were a contest between two equally powerful and equally resourced enemies. Palestine is occupied — in the most brutal way possible. The Israeli military control large parts of the West Bank and Gaza is completely sealed and “monitored” by Israeli ships, fighter planes and tanks.

While the Nakba began with the expulsion of Palestinians from their villages and the destruction of those villages, it continues with sniper attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, encroachment of illegal settlements across the West Bank and extreme limitations placed on Palestinians' movements within and between towns, courtesy of IDF-staffed checkpoints.

Al Nakba never ended. Al Nakba is constant and continuing. But Palestinians are not going to give up and be content to mourn the ghost of Palestine.

The international community needs to defend Palestinian human rights, support Palestinian protests against forced housing demolitions, crop destruction and land theft and put real pressure on Israel to end its occupation and comply with international law.

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