Gene Simmons, Helen Mirren, Boy George and music executive Scooter Braun are among more than 400 celebrities and entertainment figures who have signed an open letter supporting Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision this year, amid calls for a boycott due to the Israel-Gaza war.

Organised by non-profit body Creative Community For Peace, which campaigns against cultural boycotts of Israel, the letter reads: “We believe that unifying events such as singing competitions are crucial to help bridge our cultural divides and unite people of all backgrounds through their shared love of music.

“Those who are calling for Israel’s exclusion are subverting the spirit of the Contest and turning it from a celebration of unity into a tool of politics.”

Signatories also include actors Selma Blair, Mayim Bialik, Ginnifer Goodwin, Liev Schreiber, Julianna Margulies, Emmy Rossum and Debra Messing.

The letter comes a month after more than 2,000 musicians in Finland, Iceland and Sweden – this year’s host country – signed separate open letters calling for Israel to be banned from the competition due to its ongoing war in Gaza.

If Israel is not excluded from the competition in Malmö in May, the signatories to the Finnish letter have called for the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle, to boycott Eurovision and refuse to send an entrant.

“It is not in accordance with our values that a country that commits war crimes and continues a military occupation is given a public stage to polish its image in the name of music,” that open letter, published in January, read.

In response to that letter, a Eurovision spokesperson told the Guardian that the song contest “remains a non-political event”.

“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,” they said.

It said Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, “meets all the competition rules” and would be able to participate in Malmö. Israel is set to be represented by singer Eden Golan.

Responding to the calls for a Eurovision ban, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, said: “Promoting a boycott of Israel is supporting the acts of Hamas, is giving a prize to terrorism and is incompatible with the values of the [European Broadcasting Union] and of the competition.”

But countries have been excluded from Eurovision in the past. In 2022, organisers banned Russia from the event, saying its entry “would bring the competition into disrepute” after its invasion of Ukraine.

Israel launched an assault on Gaza after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took 250 people hostage on 7 October. The Israeli military has killed at least 28,000 people, displaced more than 85% of the Palestinian population and reduced more than half of Gaza’s infrastructure to rubble.

CCFP has previously campaigned for the participation of Israel in Eurovision. When hundreds of high-profile cultural figures called for a boycott of Eurovision when Israel won hosting rights in 2019, CCFP put together a petition supporting the country that was signed by 11,200 people, including many of the same signatories of the most recent CCFP letter. The 2019 Eurovision competition went ahead in Tel Aviv.


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