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Eurovision 2019: Wolf Alice call for Israel boycott over 'serial human rights abuses'

Song contest takes place in Tel Aviv this week

Israel's Netta wins Eurovision 2018

Wolf Alice have joined a growing number of artists to back a boycott of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The Mercury Prize-winning band spoke to Sky News, where they accused Israel of “weaponising culture” and of being “serial human rights abusers”.

Wolf Alice guitarist Joff Oddie claimed that the country was using Eurovision and wider culture to “whitewash over their human rights abuses”, and said the boycott was a response to “a call from Palestinian civil society”.

“We asked Palestine – ‘do you want us to come?’ ‘No – do not come’ and that’s what you do, you respect the people who are being oppressed,” he said.

The band previously spoke about their support of an Israel boycott in an interview with The Independent last year.

We agreed years ago that we wouldn’t go there, but this was about agreeing that we would make it public,” Oddie said at the time. ”It’s been the worst period of violence since the bombings in Gaza in 2014, so [for us] it was just a big kick up the arse to say, look, we do support this.”

“If you say you’re not gonna go to Israel, then lots of people ask you why you’re going to other countries where you don’t believe in their government’s actions,” frontwoman Ellie Rowsell added. ”People ask, ‘Why do you go to America? Does that mean you support Trump?’

“And I can see why [they] think that’s hypocritical, but you won’t do anything if you think like that. Everywhere’s f****d, and in terms of the cultural boycott of Israel, that’s what the Palestinian people have asked for.”

Israel won the honour of hosting Eurovision after its contestant Netta won last year’s contest. The semi-finals take place in Tel Aviv this week on 14 and 15 May, with the grand final on Saturday.

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Wolf Alice are among a group of artists including Roger Waters and Peter Gabriel who signed an open letter calling for a boycott, and for the BBC to cancel its coverage of the competition.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has been calling for a complete cultural boycott of Israel since 2005, insisting the violation of Palestinian human rights cannot be ignored.

The BBC has said Eurovision “is not a political event” and in a statement said their coverage would continue.

“The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons,” it said.

“Because of this we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”

Another group of artists, writers, and TV personalities, including Stephen Fry and Sharon Osbourne, are among those to sign a counter open letter that rejects the Eurovision boycott.

It states the competition’s “unifying power” is currently “under attack” and “the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition”.

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