Pop Culture: 2019 Eurovision–in Israel? in Jerusalem?

When the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the move has created a backlash. The latest setback threatens the city’s hopes of hosting the 2019 Eurovision song contest.

The Jerusalem recognition has triggered a series of unexpected diplomatic fiascos.

Argentina pulled out of a highly anticipated exhibition soccer match with Israel after the government moved the game to Jerusalem.

Britain’s Prince William, set to visit next week, has listed Jerusalem’s Old City as part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” on his schedule.

And now, the city’s hopes for the beloved Eurovision finale are fading.

“There is a greater concern this year than any other year I can remember about the political backdrop surrounding Eurovision,” said William Lee Adams, who runs a popular Eurovision blog. “Many fans build their whole year around a trip to Eurovision, and just given the nature of what’s going on their ideal has been tarnished.”

Israel won Eurovision last month with a flashy pop tune called “Toy” by the charismatic, previously unknown singer Netta Barzilai, who dazzled viewers with her feminist lyrics, unconventional appearance and signature chicken dance. Her May 12 victory won Israel the right to host next year’s Eurovision contest.

But the celebrations were tempered by continued bloodshed along the Gaza border, as well as the controversial move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem two days later.

More than 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since weekly protests began in the Gaza Strip in March. Some 60 people were killed on May 14, marking a jarring contrast to the Israeli jubilation over the embassy move and the Eurovision victory.

Israel says it is defending its border against mass infiltrations by Palestinian militants. But the military has come under international criticism because of the large numbers of unarmed people shot by its troops.

Israel is also confronting an international activist group calling for boycotts against the Jewish state. Supporters say it’s a way to promote Palestinian rights through nonviolent means, but Israel says the campaign masks a deeper aim of delegitimizing or even destroying the country.

The so-called BDS group — for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions — has called on the European Broadcasting Union, the contest’s sponsor, to boycott the Eurovision contest in Israel next year.

“This contest must be boycotted to avoid complicity and business-as-usual with this regime and to avoid irreversibly tarnishing the Eurovision brand with Israel’s egregious human rights record,” the group said.

Activists had targeted Barzilai and her song ahead of this year’s contest with a campaign calling on voters to award her zero points. But win she did.

The winning country traditionally hosts the contest the following year, but the location of the next show is unclear.

In Europe, capital cities have usually played host. But the city Israel considers its capital — Jerusalem — is not recognized as such by most of the international community. Just two countries, Guatemala and Paraguay, have followed the U.S. and moved their embassies to Jerusalem.

Hosting the competition in Jerusalem could present a predicament for the public broadcasters that make up the European Broadcasting Union, sparking criticism that they are taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The EBU announced this week that it will choose the host city after a bid process.