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Israel’s Eurovision song: an anthem for the Palestinian Great March of Return

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Eurovision, we are told, is an apolitical event. The rules of the competition, laid out on the Eurovision Song Contest’s (ESC) official website states, “ESC is a non-political event. All Participating Broadcasters, including the Host Broadcaster, shall ensure that all necessary steps are undertaken within their respective Delegations and teams in order to make sure that the ESC shall in no case be politicized and/or instrumentalized. […] No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political […] nature shall be permitted during the ESC.”

If there was ever a contestant in whose best interests it was for the “non-political” principle to be maintained religiously, Israel, the host of Eurovision 2019, is just that. With the influential Palestinian call for the cultural boycott now in its second decade and a substantial record of cultural events that have been cancelled following appeals to artists, asserting the apolitical essence of Eurovision is clearly Israel’s best bet for assuring that the festival will proceed undisturbed despite it all. And the protest calls that have been voiced specifically in the context of Eurovision 2019, such as the artists’ appeal to the BBC to press for Eurovision to be moved out of Israel and the Irish petition for Ireland to boycott the event, which has collected over 11,000 signatures, make the host country’s need to stress the “non-political” clause all the more urgent. Add to this the pro-Palestinian sentiments expressed by the members of Hatari, the anti-establishment band that has pledged “to offend the sensibilities of many people” while representing Iceland in the contest, and you are bound to sympathize with the Israeli organizing team – are they sleeping well?

In light of all the pressures the organizers are facing and their understandable desire to ensure that the contest will nonetheless proceed smoothly, the choice of the song that will represent Israel at the Tel Aviv Eurovision is surprising indeed. The song, by Inbar Weitzman and Ohad Shargai, to be performed by Kobi Marimi, is named “Home” – hardly an apolitical title in a land with competing national narratives, and in a state that offers the privilege of “repatriation” to anyone whose second-degree relative happens to be Jewish while simultaneously denying the right of return to Palestinian refugees expelled when Israel was established in 1948.

March 30, 2019 marked the first anniversary of weekly Great March of Return demonstrations in the besieged Gaza Strip. As the name suggests, the demonstrations aim to draw attention to the desire of many Gazan Palestinians (the majority of whom are refugees) to be able to return to their original places of residence – their homes – which they have been denied until now. Israel’s policy since the beginning of the March events has been to routinely – every Friday – fire live ammunition at the unarmed protesters. So far, nearly 200 protesters have been killed and more than 7,000 have been wounded by live ammunition, according the United Nations.

Incidentally (or not), the largest number of casualties to occur on a single day was registered on May 14, 2018, two days after the Israeli singer’s Netta Barzilai victory in Eurovision 2018, which coincided with the U.S. Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That day, at least 58 unarmed Palestinian protesters (many of whom were later claimed by Hamas to be its members) were shot dead by Israeli soliders from a close distance, and well over a thousand were injured. Astonishingly, despite the enormity of the human tragedy facing Gaza, the choice was made to nonetheless proceed with the plan to hold, on that very same day, a mass public celebration of Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision victory in a large square in Tel Aviv – only a short drive away from Gaza. The ecstatic celebration was attended by some 30,000 Israelis.

So, what do the lyrics of the song chosen to represent Israel in this year’s Eurovision speak about? Here is an excerpt:

“Home was so far, collecting scars, I refuse
Another touch won’t be another bruise
I feel the sun upon my skin
And I am someone, I am someone
You pulled my heart, I took it in
It made me someone, I am someone
I am standing tall not giving in
‘Cause I am someone, I am someone
And now I’m done, I’m coming
Now I’m done, I’m coming
Now I’m done, I’m coming home.”

These lyrics put into words what the Gazan protesters have been communicating through their actions for a whole year now. Tens of thousands have been prepared to risk their lives to assert their identities as refugees wishing to return home. While their right of return has not been granted to them, their narrative does return, unobstructed, in the lyrics of Israel’s Eurovision song. It has managed to find its way into the self-image contemporary Israel wishes to project. “Now I’m done, I’m coming home.” Home onto the Tel Aviv Eurovision stage.

How can we explain a blunder of such magnitude on the part of the Tel Aviv Eurovision team? How come no one noticed? The explanation lies with the fact that it does not occur to most Israelis to think of Palestinians’ actions as interpretable and potentially meaningful. Rather, they are understood as just actions, meaningless at best, irritating at worst: they are throwing themselves onto the fence because Hamas told them to, or because they are crazy, or because they’ll do anything to annoy us. The narrative stimulating these actions, presumed not to exist at all, is unfamiliar and therefore unrecognizable.

In Sigmund Freud’s work, the return of the repressed is the process whereby repressed experiences and thoughts, preserved in the unconscious, tend to reemerge, in consciousness or in behavior, in the shape of more or less unrecognizable “derivatives of the unconscious.” Slips of the tongue and symptomatic actions are both examples of such derivatives.

The repressed does not need a permit in order to be able to return, nor does the dissociated. The unconscious returns because its right of return is inalienable. What shall we do about its returns? What kind of innovative weapons will it take to kill it off once and for all?

Esther Rappaport
About Esther Rappaport

Dr. Esther Rappaport is a clinical psychologist practicing independently in Tel Aviv. She teaches and writes on critical psychology, psychoanalytic theory, culture and gender. She is an anti-Occupation activist with the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) and a member of its board, as well as an activist with Psychoactive - Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights.

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24 Responses

  1. Ismail
    Ismail on April 3, 2019, 11:01 am

    As far as psychological explanations go, I think pathological narcissism does a better job accounting for Israel’s approval of these lyrics than repression does.

    After all, a narrative about exile, maltreatment, and at long last a return home where one can finally realize her true identity can refer only to the Jewish experience, right?

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield on April 3, 2019, 1:04 pm

      That’s true, I’m afraid. Lots of Israeli songs are about exile and return. The idea that such a song could be given a non-Zionist meaning just did not occur to them. They assume that the inside of their cocoon is the world.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 3, 2019, 2:40 pm

      Hard to see how it can refer to the Jewish ‘experience’ at all, since there was never an exile of the Jews.

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso on April 4, 2019, 10:02 am

        @Maximus Decimus Meridius

        “Hard to see how it can refer to the Jewish ‘experience’ at all, since there was never an exile of the Jews.”

        And as proven beyond doubt, the vast majority of Jews living today have absolutely no genetic connection to the biblical Hebrews.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 4, 2019, 11:07 am

        @misterioso

        Correct. It’s been estimated that perhaps as many as 1 in 10 people living in the Roman empire practiced Judaism. Eveb 2000 years ago, there were large Jewish communities even in what is now Italy or France. It’s quite simply impossible that more than a small minority of them came from a small non-seafaring land on the East Med.

      • Marnie
        Marnie on April 5, 2019, 1:02 am

        @ Maximus Decimus Meridius, Misterioso

        If those words ever were uttered by, lets say Rashida Tlaib or Ilhan Omar, zionist heads would explode all over the world because that’s the platform of zionism – ingathering of the ‘exiles’. But as those exiles have been dead thousands of years, gathering them requires grave robbing as they’d hardly be able to make aliyah on their own steam.

      • Mooser
        Mooser on April 6, 2019, 11:40 am

        “they’d hardly be able to make aliyah on their own steam.”


        The Executor takes care of that.
        I’m not sure about re-burial in the Holy Land, tho.

      • Nathan
        Nathan on April 8, 2019, 9:47 pm

        Maximus – My source of information is the Mondoweiss website, and so it is beyond doubt that there was a Jewish exile. In an article written by Yossi Gurvitz on March 19, 2019, we were told that “the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar razed Jerusalem and exiled most of the skilled workers of Judea to Babylon”. I should add that the Book of Psalms 137 verifies the story of exile (“on the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion”), but there is no need for any additional proof if a quote from Mondoweiss is available. Misterioso has told you that “the vast majority of Jews living today have absolutely no genetic connection to the biblical Hebrews”, so here we have another impressive source that at least some of the Jews today are descendants of the ancient Hebrews. You agreed with him. But even more interesting is the comment by Marnie who claimed that there is no “ingathering of exiles” simply because “those exiles have been dead thousands of years”. That certainly was the most “wow” statement that I’ve ever heard on a pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel website. The death of the original exiles means that the issue is over (according to Marnie), and so their descendants are not an exiled people who might have legitimate aspirations to return. She wished to mock the founding narrative of Israel, but in so doing she has negated the central theme of the Palestinian narrative.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 9, 2019, 11:15 am

        Rather poor attempt at being smart and clever. You know very well I was talking about the purported “exile” by the Romans, which anyone with even the slightest grasp of history knows never happened and could never have happened.

        And the vast majority of Jews are indeed just bog-standard Middle Easterners and East Europeans. The claim that they are biologically descended from biblical Jews is a fantasy in the service of ideology.

  2. gamal
    gamal on April 3, 2019, 2:16 pm

    “Add to this the pro-Palestinian sentiments expressed by the members of Hatari, the anti-establishment band that has pledged “to offend the sensibilities of many people” while representing Ireland” before anyone notices Hatari Iceland according to google funny name for an irish band, not that that means anything, if you get in there now, its only one letter, no one will be any the wiser.

  3. Nathan
    Nathan on April 3, 2019, 10:44 pm

    There’s another article in this edition of Mondoweiss (written by Helena Cobban) that expresses that very rare moment in which it is allowed to express criticism vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The Palestinian signing of the Oslo Accords bothers the anti-Israel crowd so much that criticism of the Palestinians in this regard can be tolerated without protest (and without being accused of being a “Zionist” or a lowly “hasbarist”). Helena Cobban tells us that the PLO’s signing of the Oslo Accords means that they have given up on the right of return. Here are her exact words: “And they effectively gave up on the PLO’s longstanding demands on both the return of refugees and Jerusalem”.

    I have made mention on a number of occasions that the Palestinians have agreed that the issue of refugees will be negotiated (i.e. it’s a political issue to be worked only in the context of ending the conflict). Of course, since I’m not anti-Israel, everyone gets furious that such an opinion can be expressed. Interestingly, when an anti-Israel writer mentions it, no one seems to think that a protest is needed.

    Anyway, the author of the above article, Esther Rappaport, speaks of the right of return. I would like to bring to her attention that another author in this website has explained that “they effectively gave up on the PLO’s longstanding demands on both the return of refugees and Jerusalem”. In other words, the agreement in Oslo to negotiate (1) settlements, (2) borders, (3) Jerusalem, (4) refugees and (5) Palestinian statehood means all these issues will be resolved through negotiations. And if there won’t be negotiations, they won’t be resolved.

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      Atlantaiconoclast on April 3, 2019, 11:20 pm

      What leverage do Palestinians have if all they are ever allowed to do is “negotiate” over a pizza that is more than three-fourths eaten?

    • RoHa
      RoHa on April 5, 2019, 12:39 am

      ‘Helena Cobban tells us that the PLO’s signing of the Oslo Accords means that they have given up on the right of return. Here are her exact words: “And they effectively gave up on the PLO’s longstanding demands on both the return of refugees and Jerusalem”.’

      I will let HC decide for herself whether her words mean what you think they mean. I will simply point out that signing the Oslo Accords does not mean that the refugees no longer have the right of return.

      I will explain, yet again.

      The scene shifts (uneasily) to England.

      I have a house there. Sir Joseph Moneybags wants to build a huge office block right next door. But the windows on that side have Ancient Lights. This bit of English law means that I have a right to daylight through those windows. No-one can build anything which casts a shadow over them.

      Since I wish to maintain the integrity of my kneecaps, I agree to negotiate with Sir Joseph. Have I, by agreeing, given up my right to light?

      Of course not! Had I given up the right, there would be nothing to negotiate. Sir J would simply say “You no longer have that right, so there is no need for me to do anything for you”, and start merrily building.

      Only when I have accepted the holiday villa in the Bahamas and the regular use of one of his private planes to get there, and the deal is done and secured, have I given up the right to light. Until that time I still have it.

      So it is with the right of return. There have been no negotiations (because Israel refuses to negotiate) and no deal has been done. Thus, they still have the RoR.

      • Nathan
        Nathan on April 12, 2019, 5:06 pm

        RoHa – Helena Cobban has written an article in Mondoweiss, claiming that “they effectively gave up on the PLO’s longstanding demands on both the return of refugees and Jerusalem”. Since there is no doubt about the anti-Israel credentials of Ms Cobban and of Mondoweiss, I think that it’s very significant that such a point has been published. It’s been obvious for years that there is no right of return. Not only have the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement (accepting the principle that the issue of refugees must be negotiated), the Palestinians have accepted that Arab League peace initiative which calls for a negotiated agreement on the question of refugees. I assume that you understand that “a negotiated agreement” is different than “a right of return”. But, in all seriousness, Oslo and the Arab League are really trivial in comparison to a Mondoweiss article. After all, we are all avid readers of this website which we take as a responsible authority.

      • RoHa
        RoHa on April 13, 2019, 1:05 am

        Neither HC’s articles nor your refusal to understand the bleedin’ obvious are important.

        The ROR holds until the negotiations are completed and the result accepted.

  4. lonely rico
    lonely rico on April 8, 2019, 10:46 am

    Eurovision, we are told, is an apolitical event.

    Not everyone agrees.

    Slovo will be skipping the party –

  5. Ossinev
    Ossinev on April 9, 2019, 7:40 am

    @Nathan
    “There’s another article in this edition of Mondoweiss (written by Helena Cobban) that expresses that very rare moment in which it is allowed to express criticism vis-a-vis the Palestinians.”

    “That very rare moment”. WTF are you talking about. I for one have been consistently “critical” to put it mildly of the revolting Vichy PA leaders and I think that with some research you will find that my views have been mirrored by other MW commentators.

    ” I should add that the Book of Psalms 137 verifies the story of exile (“on the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion”)”

    FFS grow up and start living in the real world !!!! You are using the internet and probably have a microwave in your kitchen. Do you go to the Book of Whatever if they break down.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 9, 2019, 11:19 am

      People will one day look back and laugh at how Zionists – including those who consider themselves quite learned and clever – use biblical fairy tales as historical evidence. Oh wait no, we’re already laughing at them.

      • Nathan
        Nathan on April 9, 2019, 12:15 pm

        Maximus – You claim that the Biblical stories are all fairy tales, but actually the story of exile is very historical. The annals of the Babylonian kings have been discovered, and there you can see an exact repeat of the Biblical account of the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, including the name of the king of Judah, the policy of exiling (the number of exiles) and more.

        No one doubts the existence of an ancient Jewish kingdom, and no one doubts that the Bible is a creation of an ancient Jewish civilization in the Middle East. The anti-Israel crowd likes to pretend that it’s all fable by mentioning that a story such as slavery in Egypt is not real history. However, there is real historic information in the Bible, and every university teaches it.

        Perhaps, you have some belief that denying the Jewish narrative will magically make Israel go away. She’s not going away.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 9, 2019, 2:44 pm

        Your ancestors were not exiled from Palestine.

        You are not a descendant of ancient Hebrews.

        Israel isn’t a ‘she’ and relies entirely on gentile goodwill. Without that, ‘she’ is doomed.

        And who cares about your ancient fables? They don’t give you the right to Palestine in the place of the indigeneous people, who do not rely on fake names, fake history and handouts from American taxpayers.

      • Nathan
        Nathan on April 10, 2019, 7:59 am

        Gee, Maximus, I wonder how you know if I’m a descendant of the ancient Hebrews or not. Anyway, I see that you are aware of the fact that there were Hebrews in antiquity (even if you couldn’t possibly know if I’m one of their offspring). The reason that you know that there was such a people is that there is an ancient book that writes about the Hebrews. So, it turns out that even Maximus accepts the fact that the Bible, that “book of fables”, presents reliable information.

        Anyway, you might find it interesting to learn that there is a state named Israel, and there are citizens of that state who are known as Israelis. That’s political science. It doesn’t matter if they have the DNA of the ancient Hebrews, nor does it matter if you claim that there is no Jewish exile. So, really there is no point in denying the veracity of the Biblical narrative and then verifying the existence of the people who created that famous book. The Israelis are the citizens of Israel even without your approval.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic on April 10, 2019, 12:17 pm

        The Hebrew Bible is the backstory to Rabbinic Judaism, which does not crystallize until the 10th century CE just as the Greek Old Testament is the backstory to the various forms of Christianity.

        Even if the Hebrew Bible or the Greek Old Testament represented history in the modern sense, there is no reason to believe either (1) that modern Jews descend from ancient Judeans and ancient Hebrews or (2) that modern Christians descend from the Palestinian followers of Jesus.

        Orthodox Christianity whether Coptic, Greek, or Syrian is far closer to elite Temple Judaism than Rabbinic Judaism is while Islam is far closer to the popular version of Palestinian Judaism contemporary with elite Temple Judaism than Rabbinic Judaism is.

        Because of racist genocide-conspirators and genocide-inciters like Nathan, it is important to campaign to educate Americans to the fundamental evil of the State of Israel so that such genocide-conspirators and genocide-inciters can be tried under 18 U.S. Code § 1091 (Genocide).

    • Nathan
      Nathan on April 9, 2019, 11:43 am

      Ossinev – In the comments’section of Mondoweiss, you sometimes hear some criticism of the Palestinian side. There too it is criticism of their having signed the Oslo Agreement. Actually, your criticism is the very same thing. No one criticizes them for anything else (for example, the pointless fence demonstrations). In short, there will always be a justification for any act of hostility towards Israel, and there might be a word of criticism only if the Palestinian would agree to try and work something out. There are a few readers who are not anti-Israel, and they are capable of pointing out some of the mistakes of the Palestinian. All the authors of articles are anti-Israel, of course. So, the rare criticism of the Palestinians is about Oslo. In every other aspect of the conflict, there will only be an uncritical repeat of what the Palestinians claim – and, never will there be an outline of an end-of-conflict scenario. In the anti-Israel world, there is no end of conflict as long as Israel exists, but no author has the honesty to come out and say so.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius on April 10, 2019, 11:40 am

      “Gee, Maximus, I wonder how you know if I’m a descendant of the ancient Hebrews or not.”

      Because almost nobody alive today is, and if they are it will be only in part. Not that the Hebrews were anything special of that descent from them is some kind of prize.

      “It doesn’t matter if they have the DNA of the ancient Hebrews,”

      Tell that to the likes of Ingush Boris, who seems to think it matters an awful lot.

      “you claim that there is no Jewish exile.”

      So it’s just me claiming it, is it? Can you link to some accounts from reputable historians who believe there was a Jewish exile in the Roman era?

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