Israeli Eurovision champ says boycott calls spread 'darkness'

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, who won last year's Eurovision song contest, said Monday that calls to boycott this year's event in Tel Aviv amount to "spreading darkness."

Due to Barzilai's victory last year in Portugal with her #MeToo-inspired song "Toy", a performance that included clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves, Israel hosts this year's competition from May 14-18.

There have been calls from artists such as Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and British singer Peter Gabriel to move the competition to another country over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Waters has also called on Madonna to abandon plans to perform at Eurovision.

While carefully avoiding delving into politics, Barzilai, 26, argued that calls for a boycott went against the purpose of the competition.

"Being on the same stage no matter what your religion is -- your ethnicity, your colour -- from all these countries, all these cultures combined together, this is a festival of light," she told foreign journalists in Jerusalem.

"For people to boycott light is spreading darkness, is doing the exact opposite thing, and that's why I think they might be going against their own beliefs."

Asked whether she would perform for Palestinians, Barzilai said: "I wasn't invited, but if my singing could solve problems, I would go."

Barzilai declined to comment on Israel's recent elections, which saw right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win a fifth term.

"When I will say my political opinion, I will bring hearts apart instead of bringing them together," she said.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.

It has also fought three wars with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, since 2008 and has blockaded the enclave for more than a decade.