LGBTQ Agenda: Gay congressmember criticizes NY queer bar for canceling Eurovision watch party

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday May 10, 2024
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Eurovision Song Contest final contestants include Eden Golan, left, of Israel; Bambie Thug of Ireland, who's nonbinary; and Olly Alexander of the United Kingdom, who's gay and nonbinary. All will compete Saturday in Sweden. Photos: Courtesy Eurovision Song Contest
Eurovision Song Contest final contestants include Eden Golan, left, of Israel; Bambie Thug of Ireland, who's nonbinary; and Olly Alexander of the United Kingdom, who's gay and nonbinary. All will compete Saturday in Sweden. Photos: Courtesy Eurovision Song Contest

A gay New York City congressmember criticized a queer bar's decision to cancel a Eurovision watch party as antisemitic. It echoes a similar cancellation in San Francisco, where a benefit watch party for the Center for Immigration Protection was also shelved, apparently due to an Israeli taking part in the popular singing contest.

The international Eurovision Song Contest is one of the world's biggest. It's taking place this year in Malmö, Sweden. The grand finale is Saturday, May 11.

Congressmember Ritchie Torres (D-New York), who back in 2020 alongside former Congressmember Mondaire Jones (D-New York) was one of the first two openly gay Black men elected to Congress, took to X to criticize Brooklyn LGBTQ bar 3 Dollar Bill, which had planned a watch party for the Eurovision finale. There are 37 countries participating in Eurovision, including Israel, which is being represented by singer Eden Golan, 20. Golan advanced to the final round after a May 9 performance.

There are also four out LGBTQ contestants in this year's Eurovision contest: Olly Alexander of the United Kingdom is gay and nonbinary, Bambie Thug of the Republic of Ireland is nonbinary, Silvester Belt of Lithuania is bisexual, and Nemo of Switzerland is nonbinary.

Golan and Israel's participation in the competition has been criticized by protesters — over 10,000 showed up in Malmö on May 9, and more are scheduled for Golan's next performance Saturday, according to reports — calling for a boycott due to Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists crossed the Israeli border and killed 1,200 people in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Israel responded with an extensive bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, governed by Hamas, and a ground invasion, which has led to the deaths of at least 34,000 Palestinians, according to media reports, making it the deadliest conflict in the region in over four decades.

Over a million Palestinians are believed to be sheltering in Rafah, on the Egyptian border, where Israel is poised to launch an offensive. That led President Joe Biden this week to announce the U.S. won't provide offensive weapons to Israel if it invades Rafah, even after he championed and signed a $95 billion aid package earlier this year for Israel, embattled Ukraine, and Taiwan.

In a since-deleted Instagram post, 3 Dollar Bill stated, "We're listening to what you're saying and recognize that hosting the Eurovision does not align with our values here at 3DB."

The post continued, "We understand the concerns raised by our community regarding the need for boycott. We apologize sincerely to anyone we've let down and will strive to do better for our community moving forward. #NeverAgainForAnyone"

Torres didn't see it that way.

"A NYC bar cancelled a viewing of Eurovision because it features an Israeli, Eden Golan (20). Golan is being boycotted not because of what she did but because of who she is. There's a word for this: antisemitism," Torres posted on X on May 9.

Torres went on to state that Golan shouldn't be held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government.

"The Anti-Israel movement often insists: 'We are Anti-Zionists, not Anti-Semites' 'We are boycotting the Israeli government, not the Jewish people,'" Torres stated. "The boycott of Eden Golan — the prohibition of performing while Jewish — tells a different story."

Torres went on to blast Biden's response to the planned Rafah offensive.

"When the United States announced that it was withholding aid from Israel, make no mistake: The four remaining Hamas battalions embedded in Rafah were breathing a sigh of relief," he stated. "Unless the end goal is to keep Hamas in power so that it can rearm and regroup, the present shift in American policy is counterproductive to both Israeli security and Israeli-Palestinian peace."

The Bay Area Reporter called 3 Dollar Bill, which referred the paper to an email address on the bar's website. The bar did not immediately return a request to respond to Torres' comments via email.

Torres did not respond to a phone call seeking further comment.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, a Eurovision watch party in San Francisco that was to benefit Parivar Bay Area and the LGBT Asylum Project's new Center for Immigration Protection organization that was supposed to be May 11 at DNA Lounge was canceled as well.

The organizers did not respond to a B.A.R. inquiry seeking a reason for the cancellation, but in a message posted to social media, Okan Sengun, a gay man who is executive director of the asylum project, wrote, "We sincerely apologize for any distress or offense caused by our initial plans to hold a Eurovision-themed fundraiser. Our intentions for this event were to help us raise funds for the critical needs of our organization and its mission to support the vulnerable and marginalized TGNCI immigrant population."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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