With Eurovision in Israel, even the scenery is political


(JTA) — Several delegations to the Eurovision Song Contest posed for pictures and videos in the Golan Heights and with the Old City of Jerusalem as a backdrop.

That might be typical tourist behavior, but for critics of Israel it was a deeply political act surrounding an institution that pledged to be nonpolitical during its weeklong televised singing competition in Israel.

Palestinian media noted that the backdrops for the photos are in areas most countries consider occupied. They charged Israeli organizers, who arranged the photo shoots by the Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Belorussian and Albanian delegations, with trying to propagandize the contest.

The European Broadcasting Corp., which is in charge of Eurovision, disagreed, saying the photos were compatible with the event’s apolitical mission statement.

The Russian delegation posed earlier this week against the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem. Seized by Israel in 1967, the site is considered occupied internationally — a stance opposed by Israel. The Jewish state annexed eastern Jerusalem in the 1980s.

The photo and video shoot was part of the so-called postcards tradition of the Eurovision contest in which delegations visit various sites in the host country to produce visual material that is broadcast to the many millions of contest viewers.

Tourist professionals consider the postcards a valuable marketing tool.

The Serbian postcard was made against the snowy hills outside Ein Zivan, an Israeli kibbutz on the Golan. Israel captured that area in 1967 and later  annexed it. The United States this year recognized Israeli sovereignty of the Golan, making it the only other nation besides Israel to do so.

Albania and Romania’s delegations also posed in the Golan for their postcards, whereas the Belorussians visited eastern Jerusalem’s Rockefeller Archaeological Museum.

Israel is hosting the contest because it won the competition last year. The event’s producers said the European organizers had vetoed postcards from the West Bank proper.

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