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Eurovision protests ignite global movement against Israeli genocide in Gaza

May 15,2024 - Last updated at May 15,2024

The thousands of people who gathered in Malmo in Sweden to protest Israeli participation in the Eurovision Song Contest last weekend transformed the event into a political platform. Some chanted “Eurovision, united by genocide” due to the toll of 35,000 Palestinians killed, 78,000 injured, and 10,000 buried beneath the rubble during the war. Whatever their views on the war, the 12-13 million Eurovision viewers became caught up in the controversy over the inclusion of Israeli performer Eden Golan, who was rated fifth. Ahead of the contest there were calls for boycott due to Israel’s deadly and devastating seven-month war on Gaza.

Ireland’s performer Bambie Thug, who came sixth, issued a formal complaint to the European Broadcasting Union that Israeli public service station Kan had incited violence two or three times against the Irish team.

Bambie Thug is not alone among Irish folk. Due to their long history of occupation and famine, they are the most pro-Palestinian among the European Union’s member states. Palestinian flags fly from public buildings and homes in the capital Dublin and Irish towns and villages. Irish activists protest regularly against the war. This has been translated into Irish government criticisms of Israel’s conduct of offensives as well as a decision to recognise the Palestinian state in coming days along with Spain and Malta.

Students at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland’s most prestigious university, mounted a five-day protest against the war and won divestment from Israeli companies, suspension of exchanges with Israeli universities, and increased scholarships for Palestinian students. University College Dublin and Maynooth College have also staged protests. Academics for Palestine have supported these demonstrations.

Across the Irish Sea in Britain, students at Oxford and Cambridge have established encampments to protest the war as have students at Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle as well as at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. Some protests have had unexpected results. For example, the governing council of Trinity college at Cambridge University has voted to divest from all arms firms.

Students at Ghent university in Belgium and Amsterdam university in the Netherlands. Students in Paris, Tokyo and Sydney as well as in dozens of states across the US have transformed anti-war protests launched on April 17th at Columbia University in New York City into a global movement.

Columbia students who began by protesting Israel’s war on Gaza set the pattern for others by calling for the university to financially divest from firms and institutions which “profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide and occupation in Palestine”. Many world-wide protests made this connection even if universities did not have connections to Israel.

On April 30, New York city police cleared the Columbia protest camp, routed students and made scores of arrests. While other US and European universities followed this hardline example, the movement has not been cowed. Now that universities are holding commencement ceremonies for graduating students and sending undergraduates home for summer vacation, some administrators hope the movement’s momentum will falter and fade.

The Malmo protest showed this hope may be an illusion. Universities which carry on with classes during summer risk protests while any major event or large gathering can attract protesters. Among them are the June 5th, 57th anniversary of Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; the July 4th US independence parades; the July 14th celebrations marking the French revolution. Occasions for gatherings everywhere and anywhere could be targeted by activists.

The 1960s mass US protests which were galvanised by the Vietnam war were swelled by individuals and groups with labour issues and civil rights agendas. The combination of causes propelled a year-round movement which lasted until the war ended in the mid-70s.

Students who have not previously participated in demonstrations have been gripped by a feeling of belonging to a cause bigger than themselves, their families, communities, states and country. Many of these students have emerged from isolation and lethargy created by the covid pandemic.

While taking part in pro-Palestinian protests and encampments they have learned about liberation from occupation, human rights and an end to the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict which has afflicted and crippled this region for 76 years. And, they have discovered the roles played by their governments in this conflict. Their discoveries may have compelled some to reassess their governments, politicians and policies on Palestine and a wide range of issues.

This is what frightens the powers-that-be, particularly in the US and Europe where they “rule the roost”, like cocks in a chicken coop, as the saying goes. They are committed to defending the status quo where they are not questioned or challenged. This is why many university administrators have condemned the protesters, declared war on them, and sent in militarised police bearing truncheons, teargas, and guns. The cops arrive in armoured vehicles and on bulldozers with the aim of terrorising protesters. Columbia professor Shana Redmond observed, “Students are trying to process what it means to live in a police state.”

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