An Israeli anti-occupation NGO is taking advantage of the Eurovision competition, which is held this year in Tel Aviv, to provide tours to foreign visitors to see the reality of the military rule under which the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are living, according to a report by AFP.
“Breaking the Silence” – the “arch-enemy” of the right-wing Israeli government – collects and publishes testimonies of current and former Israeli soldiers about violations they say they have committed or witnessed while serving in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli officials view hosting international competition as a way to present a positive and peaceful image of their country and to encourage tourism, which is a major source of income.
The organization set up a billboard Sunday along Tel Aviv’s busiest main road that read in English “Dare to Dream of Freedom”, a play on the 2019 Eurovision slogan “Dare to Dream”, AFP reported.
The billboard shows a Mediterranean beachfront in Tel Aviv next to a scene of the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank with a military watchtower. It also invites visitors to “See the Full Picture” with daily free tours to Hebron in the occupied West Bank, starting from Tuesday.
According to AFP, the ancient city, holy to both Muslims and Jews, is a constant flashpoint where at least 600 Jewish settlers live under heavy military guard amid some 200,000 Palestinians.
On its website, the NGO wrote: “We’re happy you came to the party with us! Enjoy the sunny beaches and exciting nightlife… But there is another side to Israeli society. An hour away from your hotel, throughout the territories, millions of Palestinians are still living under our military rule.”
The move was met with outrage by Israeli officials.
“The despicable hate organization, ‘Breaking the Silence’, again finds time to spread lies against the state of Israel,” Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted.
Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot said the Eurovision phenomenon was meant to set reality aside, AFP reported.
“In Eurovision, there are only fantastic landscapes, beautiful people and spectacular beaches,” the daily said.