Monday, May 20, 2019

What Did Eurovision Do To Israel?

This is a truly stellar analysis piece by Abigail Nussbaum on the impact Eurovision had on Israel and -- in particular -- the blow it struck against Netanyahu and his brand of politics.

One thing it does very well, which many analyses do not, is that it understands and recognizes Israel as a fully-fleshed out place -- with factions, institutions, power dynamics, and all the rest that are exactly as deep and complex as any other modern state and society. Israel is a "they", not an "it", and the blithe assumption that "if Eurovision succeeds, that's a win for Bibi" is naive to actual facts on the Israeli ground. To the contrary, Nussbaum does great work in establishing how Netanyahu and his allies have all but declared war on Israel's cultural institutions and sought to instead foster a hermit-nation, "us against the world" mentality that is disdainful (if not outright antipathic) to any sort of effort at global communal engagement. Eurovision does not ratify Bibi's view of Israel; it is a direct challenge to it.

In hosting Eurovision, the Israeli government had little choice but to give Israel's cultural institutions their due and resources (as much as Miri Regev might resent it). It featured a presenter descended from both Holocaust survivors and Palestinian refugees, delivering a greeting in Hebrew and Arabic; it featured the grand success of a public media corporation that Bibi had been desperately trying to kill, and yes, it even featured those little Israeli and Palestinian flags on the backs of Madonna's dancers.

Most importantly, in the context of a cooperative, international event, Eurovision also offered a daybreak, however brief, from the "everyone hates us and will always hate us" insistences of the Israeli political right. Against those forces counseling retreat and insularity in the face of an implacably hostile world, Eurovision showed the promise of continued cosmopolitan engagement. As Nussbaum puts it:
[The success of Eurovision] proves that the horror stories we’ve been told about the hatred that awaits us in Europe are nonsense (not to mention cover for Netanyahu’s increasing coziness with actual Nazis, just because they share his authoritarian tendencies). These are messages that the Israeli public has desperately needed to hear, and maybe for some people, they got through.

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