Olly Alexander criticised for signing statement calling Israel an “apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide

Olly Alexander has signed a pro-Palestine letter which calls Israel an “apartheid state” and accuses it of genocide.

It was revealed at the weekend that the singer and actor would be representing the UK at Eurovision next year in Malmö, Sweden, the hometown of this year’s winner Loreen.

Before he was confirmed as the UK’s Eurovision entrant, Alexander had signed an open letter from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4London, which called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Israel to allow aid into the area. The letter also condemned “Zionist propaganda” amid the war with Hamas.

The letter says: “We are watching a genocide take place in real time. Death overflows from our phone screens and into our hearts.

“And, as a queer community, we cannot sit idly by while the Israeli Government continues to wipe out entire lineages of Palestinian families. We once said, ‘silence equals death’. Now is not the time to be silent.”

“We cannot untangle these recent tragedies from a violent history of occupation. Current events simply are an escalation of the state of Israel’s apartheid regime, which acts to ethnically cleanse the land.”

The organisation added: “We strongly reject the argument that holding a pro-Palestine or anti-Zionist stance in any way promotes antisemitism.

The letter says: “We are watching a genocide take place in real time. Death overflows from our phone screens and into our hearts.

“And, as a queer community, we cannot sit idly by while the Israeli Government continues to wipe out entire lineages of Palestinian families. We once said, ‘silence equals death’. Now is not the time to be silent.”

“We cannot untangle these recent tragedies from a violent history of occupation. Current events simply are an escalation of the state of Israel’s apartheid regime, which acts to ethnically cleanse the land.”

The organisation added: “We strongly reject the argument that holding a pro-Palestine or anti-Zionist stance in any way promotes antisemitism.”

the stage design for the Eurovision Song Contest 2024
Eurovision Song Contest 2024 stage design. CREDIT: Eurovision

Various human rights groups have repeatedly labelled Israel an apartheid state, with Amnesty International saying: “The discrimination, the dispossession, the repression of dissent, the killings and injuries – all are part of a system which is designed to privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians.”

However, Alexander has faced criticism for signing the letter. The Conservative Party criticised the BBC for selecting Alexander for Eurovision, with a party spokesman telling The Telegraph: “Letting an openly anti-Israel singer compete on the same stage as Israel is either a massive oversight or sheer brass neck from the BBC… Maybe it’s time to stop letting the BBC decide who represents the UK at Eurovision.”

Meanwhile, the Jewish charity Campaign Against Antisemitism insisted that the BBC “can and must” cut ties with Alexander.

“The rhetoric in this letter, which is seemingly endorsed by Olly Alexander, is extreme,” a spokesperson for the charity told Sky News.

“It is appalling in particular that it condemns ‘unthinking philosemitism’. At a time when nearly seven in 10 British Jews feel afraid to express their identity in public, this must not be the person to represent our country at the Eurovision Song Contest.

However, The Telegraph reports that the BBC isn’t planning on taking any action as Alexander signed the letter before he was revealed to be the UK’s act.

NME has contacted Alexander’s representatives for comment.

Eurovision was also subject to backlash and boycott calls after allowing Israel to compete in next year’s competition. In addition, The Times Of Israel reports that The Association of Composers and Lyricists in Iceland have called for the country not to participate in next year’s Eurovision competition unless Israel is barred from competing.

Despite the protests, the European Broadcasting Union said in a statement that it currently has no plans to ban Israel from the Eurovision Song Contest.

It added: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a competition for public broadcasters from all over Europe and the Middle East. It is a contest for broadcasters – not for governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has been participating in the contest for 50 years.

“The EBU is a member-led organisation. The EBU’s governing bodies – led by the Board of Directors – represent the members. These bodies assessed the list of participants and decided that the Israeli public broadcaster complies with all competition rules. Together with 36 other broadcasters, it will be able to participate in the competition next year.”

It comes despite Russia being banned from the competition last year after invading Ukraine.


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