BBC urged to drop UK Eurovision entrant Olly Alexander for accusing Israel of being ‘apartheid state’

UK’s Eurovision 2024 entry signed letter criticising ‘Zionist propaganda’ amid Israel’s war with Hamas

Isobel Lewis
Thursday 21 December 2023 12:36 GMT
Olly Alexander announced as UK's entry for Eurovision 2024

The UK’s Eurovision 2024 entry Olly Alexander signed a letter referring to fellow competing nation Israel as an “apartheid regime”, it has been revealed.

On Saturday (16 December), the Years and Years singer was announced as the UK’s representative in Malmö, Sweden. However, his selection has sparked controversy after Alexander signed a letter from an LGBT+ organisation hitting out at Israel and “Zionist propaganda” amid the war with Hamas.

The revelation has prompted criticism from the Conservative Party, with a source accusing the BBC of “either a massive oversight or sheer brass neck” in selecting Alexander.

However, The Daily Telegraph reports that the BBC does not plan to take any action as Alexander signed the letter before he was revealed to be the UK’s act.

The Independent has contacted Alexander’s representatives and the BBC for comment.

The letter signed by actor and musician Alexander was published by LGBT+ organisation Voices4 London on 20 October. It is titled: “1,400+ Queer Individuals and Organisations Sign an International Statement of Solidarity with Palestine.”

Coming in the wake of military action by Israel in Gaza after the 7 October attacks by Hamas in Israel, the letter reads: “We are watching a genocide take place in real time. Death overflows from our phone screens and into our hearts. And, as a queer community, we cannot sit idly by while the Israeli government continues to wipe out entire lineages of Palestinian families.

Alexander will represent the UK in Malmö next year
Alexander will represent the UK in Malmö next year (Getty Images for Sky)

“We cannot untangle these recent tragedies from a violent history of occupation. Current events simply are an escalation of the state of Israel’s apartheid regime, which acts to ethnically cleanse the land. Since the violent creation of the state 75 years ago, the Israeli military and Israeli settlers have continued to terrorise Palestinian people.”

In response, a Conservative Party source told The Telegraph:  “Letting an openly anti-Israel singer compete on the same stage as Israel is either a massive oversight or sheer brass neck from the BBC… Maybe it’s time to stop letting the BBC decide who represents the UK at Eurovision.”

Meanwhile, the Jewish charity Campaign Against Antisemitism insisted that the BBC “can and must” cut ties with Alexander.

“The rhetoric in this letter, which is seemingly endorsed by Olly Alexander, is extreme,” they told The Telegraph. “At a time when nearly seven in 10 British Jews feel afraid to express their identity in public, this must not be the person to represent our country at the Eurovision Song Contest. The BBC can and must right this wrong.”

Eurovision organisers have rejected calls for Israel to be removed from 2024 competition
Eurovision organisers have rejected calls for Israel to be removed from 2024 competition (PA)

The criticism of Alexander comes days after Eurovision organisers rejected calls for Israel to be removed from the 2024 competition amid the war in Gaza.

As some UK politicians call for a “sustainable ceasefire” in the Middle East, musicians from Iceland have called on their home nation to boycott Eurovision unless Israel is banned from taking part.

Responding to the calls, Eurovision Song Contest argued that the competition is “a non-political event that unites audiences worldwide through music”.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a competition for public service broadcasters from across Europe and the Middle East. It is a competition for broadcasters – not governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has participated in the Contest for 50 years,” the statement read.

“The Eurovision Song Contest remains a non-political event that unites audiences worldwide through music.”

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