Irish LGBT+ Activists Sign Open Letter Calling On Sarah McTernan To Boycott Eurovision

The letter, signed by prominent campaigners including Senator David Norris and Ailbhe Smith, asks McTernan not to aid in Israel's "pinkwashing" tactics.

Protesters calling on McTernan and others to boycott Eurovision

The following letter, signed by 20 LGBT+ campaigners was recently sent to Sarah McTernan, Ireland’s Eurovision entrant, asking her to boycott the song contest due to be held in Israel on May 18.

The authors inform McTernan of what they call Israel’s use of “pinkwashing,” which they describe as a “PR tactic used by Israel which cynically exploits support for LGBTQIA people to whitewash its oppression of the Palestinian people.”

This letter to McTernan forms part of a widespread campaign to boycott this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, an event that many have decried as a dangerous opportunity for an apartheid state to hide its history of human rights abuses behind a veil of art, culture and LGBT+ equality.

Over 60 LGBT+ organisations have signed a petition calling for a boycott, and McTernan is not the only singer to come under fire for her involvement with the contest – performers including Madonna have come under criticism over planned appearances.

The letter was sent to McTernan almost two weeks ago, but the authors have not received any response and have chosen to publish it as an open letter:


Sarah McTernan, please don’t take part in a Pinkwashing exercise in Apartheid Israel

Dear Sarah,

We are human rights campaigners who have long been involved in LGBTQIA activism in Ireland.

We wish to congratulate you on your selection as the representative of Ireland to the Eurovision Song Contest this year.

However, we feel we must write to you to express our deep concern at the political use of the Eurovision that is being made by Israel this year, and to highlight in particular the issue of ‘Pinkwashing.’

Pinkwashing is a PR tactic used by Israel which cynically exploits support for LGBTQIA people to whitewash its oppression of the Palestinian people.
Israel and its supporters use several PR techniques to re-create the image of Israel in the international arena from one associated with ongoing wars, repression of Palestinians, and occupation of Palestinian lands to one associated with scientific advances, technological breakthroughs, art, culture, and equality (primarily showcasing women and LGBTQIA people). The particular use of LGBTQIA people to this end is what activists have called “Pinkwashing.”
Pinkwashing is the cynical use of gay rights to distract from and normalize the settler colonial and apartheid reality that the State of Israel has established on the ground.

Pinkwashing is meant to cover up these violations with a facade of progressiveness and equality. In short, Israeli pinkwashing aims to isolate queer from other identities and make its record on gay rights trump its continued occupation and brutalization of the Palestinian people.

Pinkwashing tries to portray Israel as progressive and civilised because it treats LGBTQIA people relatively well. It’s a strategy which misuses LGBTQIA struggles as a way of attacking the Palestinians – using the fight against homophobia and transphobia as a way of oppressing others.

The Eurovision Song Contest has a special place in the hearts of LGBTQIA communities across Europe – and the Israeli state sees in this a great opportunity to forward its Pinkwashing agenda.

The Israeli government-backed Tel Aviv Pride is promoting Eurovision alongside Tel Aviv Pride in order to reap maximum benefits for Israel for an entire month of Pinkwashing.

After her Eurovision victory, Netta Barzilai performed at Tel Aviv Pride, the crowning moment of Israel’s annual efforts to promote Tel Aviv as a liberal haven while simultaneously imposing a system of racist laws, a brutal military occupation and apartheid policies on the Palestinian people.

In fact, while Israel’s record on LGBTQIA rights is far from being all roses, it is deeply sinister when it comes to Palestinians. Israel certainly doesn’t discriminate against Palestinians based on their sexuality when it is raining death and destruction down upon civilians, kicking families out of their homes and off their land, incarcerating thousands of political prisoners, and keeping millions of people in forcible exile.

The Israeli military does, however, do its very best discover and spy on LGBTQIA Palestinians, with the specific aim of blackmailing and extorting them into becoming informers against their communities, something revealed by former Israeli army spies in 2014. This is a practice that should disgust and horrify anyone who cares about the welfare of LGBTQIA people, especially those who live in areas where their rights have yet to be fully realised.

Those who truly care about the struggles of LGBTQIA Palestinians for their own sexual and national liberation should be supporting indigenous queer organisation like Alqaws, Aswatt, Pinkwatching Israel and others. These are the same voices to fore in leading calls for an international boycott of the Eurovision in Israel. Over 100 international queer and trans liberation groups have supported the call for a boycott, including several in Ireland. Our campaign here at home has the support of many leading LGBTQIA activists and allies.

We write to ask you to listen to these voices, especially the voices of LGBTQIA Palestinians, who are calling on you not to go to the Eurovision Song Contest as long as it is hosted by the state that brutally oppresses them – Israel.

We thank you for your time and hope you will consider our message and reconsider your decision to participate in this Israeli Pinkwashing exercise.

Yours sincerely,
Ursula Barry, Associate Professor in UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice
Sarah Clancy, Poet
Cassandra Hearne, United Against Racism activist
Cathal Kerrigan, Co-founder of the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN)
Max Krzyzanowski, Marriage equality campaigner and first Mr Gay World
Derek Laffan, Researcher in cyberpsychology at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Technology and Design
Arthur Leahy, Marriage equality activist and Co-founder of Cork Gay Community Development Project
Stephen Lewis, LGBTQIA campaigner and trade unionist
Mary McAuliffe, Historian and Assistant Professor in Gender Studies at UCD
Anne Mulhall, Lecturer in UCD School of English, Drama, Film & Creative Writing
Melissa Murray, Author and screenwriter
Sen. David Norris, Senator and LGBTQIA campaigner
Queer Action Ireland, Campaigning group
Marie Redmond, Retired Adjunct Professor in Computer Science at TCD
Kieran Rose, Co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN)
Ailbhe Smith, Co-director of Together for Yes and former chairperson of the National LGBT Federation
Seán Óg Garland, Gay liberation & civil rights activist
Jen O’Leary, Trade unionist
Tina O’Toole, Senior lecturer in English literature, University of Limerick
Sen. Fintan Warfield, Senator and LGBTQIA campaigner

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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