Brian Eno: Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda tool

Brian Eno’s op-ed is published in today’s Guardian, and copied below.

“Those of us who make art and culture for a living thrive on free and open communication. So what should we do when we see culture becoming part of a political agenda? “Music unites,” says UK Eurovision entrant Michael Rice. What happens when a powerful state uses art as propaganda, to distract from its immoral and illegal behaviour? Everybody involved in the Eurovision song contest this year should understand that this is what is happening.

European broadcasters, including the BBC, are pushing ahead with plans to hold the contest in Tel Aviv this May, as if broadcasting a hugely expensive entertainment spectacle from an actively repressive apartheid-like state is no problem at all. Eurovision, says the European Broadcasting Union, is a “nonpolitical” event. It’s impossible to reconcile what the EBU is saying with reality. Israel is a state that sees culture as a political instrument: its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised Netta Barzilai, Israel’s 2018 Eurovision winner, as someone who has done “exceptional foreign relations work”.

Then there’s Israel’s war against the Palestinians and their culture. In March and April last year, Israel’s snipers targeted and killed journalists who were filming the peaceful protests in Gaza. In August its F16 jets destroyed the Said al-Mishal Centre in Gaza, a place of music, theatre and dance. Palestinian artists, actors and musicians are routinely denied permission to travel by the Israeli occupation authorities, or, as in the case of the poet Dareen Tatour, imprisoned for “inciting terrorism”. Meanwhile the Israeli culture minister accuses dissident Israeli cultural organisations of subversion, and threatens to cut funding unless they modify their programmes to suit government tastes. In 2017, for instance, the Acre theatre festival withdrew a play about Palestinian prisoners of Israel rather than face the minister’s financial revenge; since then galleries and film festivals have been similarly menaced.

These threats to cultural production are part of a wider pattern that undermines the claim that Eurovision 2019 will embody values of inclusion, diversity and friendship. The EBU’s code of ethics promotes Eurovision  as a safe space, where “human rights, freedom of expression, democracy, cultural diversity, tolerance and solidarity” can thrive. If that is really the intention, having Israel as the host is absurd: the briefest inquiry would show broadcasters that these principles had long been abandoned there.

Reporters Without Borders notes that Israeli journalists are subject to “military censorship” – gag orders. And as for “inclusion” – Israel’s myriad restrictions on the movement of Palestinians will ensure that almost all of them are excluded from the Eurovision festivities.

Last year Israel’s acclaimed theatre actor-director, Itay Tiran, was moved to urge international support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, called for by Palestinian civil society; and tens of thousands of people across Europe, fans and musicians, have signalled that they will be campaigning to disengage their countries from the events in Tel Aviv. I understand Rice’s joy at being selected as Britain’s Eurovision representative. But when he believes “it’s not my place to say” whether Israeli treatment of the Palestinians means Eurovision should be relocated, I think he’s underestimating his power. He could help to ensure that Eurovision 2019 will be remembered as an occasion of principled protest, not another episode of cultural whitewashing.”

• Brian Eno is a musician, composer, producer and visual artist. He is a supporter of Artists for Palestine UK

@LondonPalestine’s brilliant cover of Bucks Fizz’s 1981 Eurovision-winning song “Making Your Mind Up”, in support of the Palestinian call to #BoycottEurovision2019.

Artists to Lorde: individual messages of support

On 5 January 2018, more than a hundred international artists signed a letter to the Guardian in the UK in support of New Zealand singer Lorde’s decision to cancel her gig in Tel Aviv later this year.
Since then, some of those signatories have given APUK permission to publish the personal letters they’ve also written to Lorde.   We’re happy to share, amongst others, Brian Eno’s and Roger Waters’ moving expressions of solidarity and support, while Peter Gabriel’s message affirms the need for artists to stand up for human rights.  We’re also reproducing below some of the many messages artists have posted in support of Lorde on social media or via this site.


Brian Eno, musician

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Artists respond to Nick Cave’s comments

Nick Cave has held a press conference in Israel, in which he explained he ‘decided to play in Israel to stand up to ‘anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians’According to the NME: The musician explained that his change in attitude came about when Brian Eno asked him to a sign a list called Artists For Palestine three years ago. “On a very intuitive level, [I] did not want to sign it,” he said. “There was something that stunk to me about that list.”

“So after a lot of thought and consideration I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing an European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to me to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians. At the end of the day, there’s maybe two reasons why I’m here. One is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. ”’ 

Today, in addition to a statement from Artists for Palestine UK, we are publishing a number responses to Cave’s comments from individual artists.

*UPDATE Thurston Moore comment added on 25.11.2017

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Don’t play Berlin Pop-Kultur under Israeli Embassy sponsorship!


‘Art goes beyond a single act on a stage; it’s against all that is regressive and discriminatory in this world’
Mohammad Abu Hajar, Syrian rapper

Dear colleagues:

When you signed up to play Berlin Pop-Kultur, you possibly didn’t know that the Israeli Embassy in Germany was a sponsor.   Maybe you also don’t know that Palestinian civil society, living under Israeli military occupation or in exile, is appealing to artists not to take part in events sponsored by the state of Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinians’ long struggle for rights and freedom.

But now that you do know, will you follow the example of the musicians who have withdrawn from Pop-Kultur in the past few days?

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Italian press reports opposition to state-sponsored Israeli dance performance, citing letter from Brian Eno

Batsheva Dance Company show in Jerusalem

Batsheva dancers in rehearsal in Jerusalem.                     Credit: EPA/ABIR SULTAN


UPDATE 11 Sept: Il Fatto Quotidiano today printed a full page interview with Eno.


Italian newspapers are reporting opposition to Israeli state sponsorship of a performance by Batsheva dance company, due to take place tomorrow (Sept 6) in Turin.

La Republica has published in full a letter sent in June to Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin by composer Brian Eno, explaining why he has withdrawn permission for his music to be used in the performance. La Stampa has quoted from it and the story has been picked up by Italian news agency ANSA.

See here a translation by Stephanie Westbrook of BDS Italia of the Republica article, plus the text of Brian Eno’s letter.

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Oscar nominees: ‘Give your Israeli swag bag to a Palestinian refugee!’

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) on Wednesday called on actors and directors on this year’s Oscars shortlist:  ‘Give your Israeli swag bag to a Palestinian refugee!’


  • Mike Leigh, film director and five-times Oscar nominee said:  A five-star trip to the land of their parents and grandparents is just what exhausted Palestinians from the refugee camps could do with. I think the world would be happy to see Israeli government money used for once to make reparations to Palestinians — and I hope the stars will agree.’
  • Ken Loach, BAFTA nominee and Palme d’Or winner said: “Just think what $55,000 could do for Palestinians whose homes have been destroyed and their lands stolen.  Let’s hope that film people can see through this crude propaganda.”
  • Brian Eno, musician and composer suggested an alternative swag bag offering: “Visit Palestine! Enjoy a tear-gas filled weekend in an East Jerusalem ghetto!

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Art is the velvet glove on Israel’s iron fist – Brian Eno in Apollo magazine

International art magazine Apollo devotes its December double-page  Forum discussion to the question, “Are artists justified in boycotting Israel?”

The debate can be viewed online here. We review it below.
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Musicians Should Boycott Israel Until Palestinians Are Free

Musician Brian Eno, signatory of the UK Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, and Ohal Grietzer , a musician and activist with the Israeli group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, made the following joint contribution to public discussion about the cultural boycott of Israel on

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