Eurovision host Assi Azar, a gay man who will be one of four presenters of the contest in Tel Aviv this May, has spoken out against widespread plans to boycott Eurovision as a stand against Israeli oppression of Palestine.
In an interview with Gay Star News, Azar protested that “By boycotting, you will never learn or understand the other side.
“My husband, before he moved to Israel, he thought that Israel was the worst place on the planet. He thought it was full of racist people fighting against each other. We move to Israel and now my husband is an ambassador for Israel.
“When you move to a certain place, you see people are people. You get good people and bad people. For me, my family and friends – we are people of peace. We want to live in peace next to our neighbours. That’s what I think Eurovision is all about. Live and let live, love and let love.”
The Eurovision host went on to call boycotting “a message of hate.” He added “I used to do lectures in universities around the states and people would protest. What would people get from boycotting me, someone who supports women, supports LGBT people. If you’re going to protest, why not protest politicians?”
He acknowledged that “There are some things to change especially in the terms of the Palestinians. You’re not allowed to get married if you’re gay in Israel and that needs to change.”
“When it’s needed,” said the Eurovision host, “I have criticisms of my country. But when I travel outside, I will always defend my country.
“Criticism is always allowed. It’s also extremely important for me to say it out loud, I’m proud to be Israeli and I’m proud of my country. We’ve also done many things that are great and amazing to our country, to our neighbours, and to the world.”
Plans for a boycott gathering pace
Meanwhile, support for the boycott has been widespread here in Ireland. Last week, a protest was held outside RTÉ Studios to coincide with the announcement of Irish entrant Sarah McTernan. Activists from the Irish Campaign to Boycott Eurovision 2019 created an ‘Apartheid Wall’ to go alongside their banners and placards, and presented a further petition of 5,500 signatures calling on RTÉ not to participate in this year’s contest.
Haneen Maikey, director of alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, has commented “As Palestinian queers, we are heartened by the increasing numbers of LGBTQIA communities taking a stand against Israel’s pinkwashing agenda in a true show of effective solidarity.
“LGBTQIA communities are refusing to allow queer and trans liberation to be used by the Israeli regime of oppression as a progressive smokescreen to conceal its violent oppression of Palestinians. They are saying, “Our rights are indivisible from the rights of all oppressed communities.”
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