Palestine Solidarity Campaign are the largest UK-based organisation campaigning for Palestinian human rights. They campaign against both the UK government’s complicity in the conflict as well as corporations that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation. They also campaign to hold the media to account on their reporting of the conflict.
In addition to the institutionalised discrimination faced by Palestinians and vast inequalities in access to resources between Israelis and Palestinians, Israel is in breach of international law (UN resolution 194 which states the right of Palestinian refugees to return home or receive compensation) and through their illegal occupation of Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Despite the EU itself denouncing Israel for passing the Jewish Nation State law, less than a year ago, which grants national self-determination rights exclusively to Jewish people, the Eurovision contest continued in Israel as planned. As a result, Palestine Solidarity Campaign called for people to #BoycottEurovision.
The night opened in style with a powerful performance by dabke dance troupe Hawiyya. This style of folk dance has its origins in expressing connection to the land, but has evolved into a form of resistance by the Palestinian people. Some of the choreographies represented working on the land, others depicted the protests at the Gaza border with the throwing of rocks and peace signs. The emotion evoked by the performance was visible in the dancer’s faces – both the smiles of pride and the grit of determined struggle.
Hawiyya were followed by Jenan Younis, an Iraqi-Palestinian London-based comedian. Her sharp wit and satire shed light on the difficult realities of growing up with Middle Eastern heritage in the UK, as well as the problematic behaviour of British public figures in their depictions of the Middle East (Stacey Dooley anyone?).
Next up, Mic Righteous stormed the stage opening with his Fire in the Booth 3, and blew everyone away with his impeccable and emotionally charged lyricism. Righteous performed Fire in the Booth 4, Scenes and a new track written for his brother-in-law who recently took his own life. He also called a talented female vocalist on stage to perform a beautiful rendition of The Roots classic ‘You Got Me’. He truly brought his heart and soul to the stage.
Then the lights went down, the chanting started we waited in anticipation to see Lowkey arrive. He opened with Soundtrack to the Struggle, followed by My Soul – the anthem to resistance. The crowd went wild when he performed Long Live Palestine, a message of support to the Palestinian people, as well as Hand on Your Gun, a reminder of the élite interests that exist in military interventions. Letter to the 1% and Alphabet Assassin followed. Lowkey brought Mic Righteous back onstage for Revolution Music, before performing Ahmed – a poignant nod to the responsibility the very countries represented in Eurovision have towards the lives of refugees.
Lowkey closed his set with Ghosts of Grenfell – a powerful reminder of the way forces of oppression intersect.
“We need people in this country to see themselves in the faces of the people that have passed, and in the faces of the people that are struggling today”
He reminded the crowd that Arconic, the company responsible for the cladding of Grenfell tower, make the F-35 plane with Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. Next year Israel will demonstrate its usage to the British Army. “From Grenfell to Gaza, the chains that bind us may be invisible to us as we speak, but with time these will come out.” He ended with a call to join the Grenfell United campaign, and mobilise on the 14th June, on the second anniversary of the Grenfell tower tragedy.
On Saturday night, a contest meant to celebrate culture and art across borders was held in a state responsible for denial of basic human rights to Palestinian people. In parallel, during those very same hours of the evening, in a small club in Camden, there was a celebration of art as resistance and the power in the struggle that carries on, and will carry on, until all chains are broken.
For information on future work and events visit the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.