(JTA) – Several delegations to the Eurovision Song Contest posed for pictures and videos in the Golan Heights and with the Old City of Jerusalem as a backdrop. That might be typical tourist behavior, but for critics of Israel it was a deeply political act surrounding an institution that pledged to be nonpolitical during its week-long televised singing competition in Israel. Palestinian media noted that the backdrops for the photos are in areas most countries consider occupied. They charged Israeli organizers, who arranged the photo shoots by the Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Belorussian and Albanian delegations, with trying to propagandize the contest. The European Broadcasting Corp., which is in charge of Eurovision, disagreed, saying the photos were compatible with the event’s apolitical mission statement. The photo and video shoot was part of the so-called postcards tradition of the Eurovision contest in which delegations visit various sites in the host country to produce visual material that is broadcast to the many millions of contest viewers. Tourist professionals consider the postcards a valuable marketing tool. The Serbian, Albanian and Romanian delegations posed for they postcards in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed. The United States this year recognized Israeli sovereignty of the Golan. The Belorussians visited eastern Jerusalem’s Rockefeller Archaeological Museum.
Israel hosted the contest because it won the competition last year. The event’s producers said the European organizers had vetoed postcards from the West Bank proper.