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Olly Alexander confirms he will not boycott Eurovision: “It wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal”

Olly Alexander has confirmed that he will not boycott this year’s Eurovision, despite Israel’s inclusion, saying “it wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal”.

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The UK’s entry in this year’s competition has faced calls to withdraw in solidarity with Palestine, but it appears that will not be happening.

In a personal statement posted on his social media accounts, he said: “I wholeheartedly support action being taken to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the return of all hostages and the safety and security of all civilians in Palestine and Israel.

“I know some people will choose to boycott this year’s Eurovision and I understand and respect their decision.”

“As a participant I’ve taken a lot of time to deliberate over what to do and the options available to me,” he continued. “It is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal.

“Instead, I’ve been speaking with some of the other EV contestants and we’ve decided that by taking part we can use our platform to come together and call for peace.”

“I hope and pray that our calls are answered and there is an end to the atrocities we are seeing taking place in Gaza.”

“I’d like to thank the many signatories of this letter whose work I deeply admire and respect and hope that we can continue to work together in creating a better world for all of us,” he concluded.

It comes after Alexander, alongside Ireland’s Bambie Thug, Norway’s Gåte, Portugal’s Iolanda, San Marino’s Megara, Switzerland’s Nemo, Denmark’s SABA, Lithuania’s Silvester Belt and Finland’s Windows95Man, signed a joint letter outlining their response to the boycott calls.

“In light of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and particularly in Gaza, and in Israel, we do not feel comfortable being silent,” the statement read. “It is important to us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and communicate our heartfelt wish for peace, an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and the safe return of all hostages. We stand united against all forms of hate, including antisemitism and islamophobia.”

“We firmly believe in the unifying power of music, enabling people to transcend differences and foster meaningful conversations and connections,” it continues.

“We feel that it is our duty to create and uphold this space, with a strong hope that it will inspire greater compassion and empathy.”

That letter prompted an immediate response from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) – a founding member of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“By participating in Eurovision alongside apartheid Israel while it carries out its live-streamed genocide against 2.3million Palestinians in Gaza, armed and enabled by many European governments, the contestants would be complicit in artwashing these crimes,” they wrote.

“We call on all Eurovision contestants to withdraw from the contest, as a meaningful gesture of solidarity and to fulfil this moral responsibility to do no harm.”

The back-and-forth began with an open letter – which can be read in full here – from Queers For Palestine on Thursday (March 28). “By refusing to expel Israel from the competition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is providing cultural cover and endorsement for the catastrophic violence that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians,” it read.

London’s biggest Eurovision screening party cancelled its 2024 edition this week over Israel’s participation in this year’s event, while political commentator Owen Jones made an appeal for Alexander to “do the right thing” and withdraw.

“Don’t let Eurovision help give the Israeli state a reputational boost as it murders the Palestinian people of Gaza,” Jones said in a video shared on YouTube, also criticising the contest as having “racist double standards”.

Last year, Alexander was one of many who signed a pro-Palestine letter, calling Israel an “apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide.

Israel is set to take part in the 2024 instalment as planned, but revealed earlier this month that it had changed the lyrics to their song.

Their entry, ‘October Rain’ by Eden Golan, appeared to contain references to the victims of Hamas’ October 7 attacks. Initially, Israel threatened to withdraw from the competition if any changes were to be made to the lyrics. However, a call from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for “necessary adjustments” to ensure Israel’s participation prompted their public broadcaster KAN to agree to amend the song.

The contest continues to face backlash and boycott calls for allowing the country to compete due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. On the other hand, the push to have Israel removed from the competition has faced backlash as well, with famous faces including Sharon Osbourne and KISS’ Gene Simmons having signed a separate open letter, rejecting the ban.

The final of this year’s competition will be hosted in Malmö, Sweden, the hometown of last year’s winner Loreen. It will take place on Saturday, May 11.

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