People are accusing Eurovision winners Israel of cultural appropriation

Ella Braidwood May 13, 2018
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Israel's singer Netta performs the song "Toy" during the first semifinal of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 8, 2018. - The Eurovision Song Contest 2018 will be held in the Portuguese capital Lisbon from May 8 until May 12, 2018. (Photo by FRANCISCO LEONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Some Twitter users have accused Eurovision winners Israel of culturally appropriating Asian culture.

Israel won the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest last night, with a timely song about female empowerment in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp – just before Tel Aviv Pride.

But some Eurovision fans on Twitter have hit out at the champions, claiming Israel’s entrant Netta culturally appropriated Asian culture – especially Japan – during her performance.

Netta wore a kimono in her performance – a traditional Japanese garment – and her set featured multiple golden versions of the Japanese cat figurine maneki-neko. This symbolic cat, believed to bring good luck to the owner, is also used by Chinese merchants.

One user wrote: “So how come no one’s calling Israel out on their cultural appropriation?

Another said: “ireland had 2 gays dancing together,,,,,, italy had a multi-language song about war and terrorism,,,,,,, cyprus had an uplifting upbeat bop,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and europe voted for ISRAEL with its cultural appropriation and chicken noises [sic]”.

Critics also slammed Netta’s chicken impersonation during her performance, given her choice to wear Japanese-looking clothing.

Other references to Asia in Netta’s performance included her hair in roller buns, a style often associated with Japanese culture.

And some chastised Netta’s acceptance speech, in which she celebrated diversity.

The singer said:”Thank you for much for choosing difference, thank you so much for accepting differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity, thank you.”

However, one Twitter user said: “How is this celebrating diversity? Mocking Japanese culture in this way has been deemed socially acceptable and endorsed?! Great performance but did it need the selective Japanese tapestry?”

Champions Israel look set to host next year’s Eurovision in Jerusalem next year, and not Tel Aviv.

Following her win Israel’s Netta Barzilai’s shouted: “Next time Jerusalem.”

Next year’s host city hasn’t been officially confirmed by Eurovision yet, but PinkNews has reached out for a comment.

The Israeli singer, simply known as Netta, gave a show-stopping performance of “Toy,” complete chicken noises and an electronic looper.

She was a hot favourite to win the accolade, with her official video for the song racking up more 25 million views on YouTube before this evening’s event had even started.

The topical track includes lyrics like: “Wonder Woman, don’t you ever forget / You’re divine and he’s about to regret / He’s a bwoka-mhm-bwokbwokbwok-mhm boy,” and: “I’m not your toy / You stupid boy.”


The 25-year old singer has already picked up an OUTtv award after winning a vote among the contest’s LGBT fanbase.

Netta has previously said about her Eurovision song: “I think the song is #MeToo, but it’s an empowerment song for everybody, and everybody can find themselves in it.

Netta’s chicken dance (YouTube/EBU)

“For me, when I sing it, I think about bullying and people who try to bring you down because they’re afraid of you. It’s an empowerment song for everybody.”

Israel claimed the award with 529 points, knocking Cyprus into second place.

Britain’s SuRie – the bookies’ favourite to finish last – did better than expected, finishing 23.

However, her rendition of “Storm” was disrupted when a man managed to get onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from the singer, reportedly shouting “for the Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom,” which  temporarily halted her performance.

SuRie was given the chance to perform again, but turned down the offer.

Elsewhere, Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy performed “Together,” a moving ballad about a failed same-sex relationship.

His performance included two male dancers re-enacting a same-sex love story. Watch the video here.

Chinese broadcaster Mango TV was dropped from the Eurovision Song Contest’s organising body the EBU after censoring parts of O’Shaughnessy’s performance in the semi-final on Tuesday night.

In other highlights, the BBC threw Australia’s Jessica Mauboy some serious shade, likening her to drag star Miss Vanjie.

Meanwhile, bonafide queer icon Saara Aalto represented her home country Finland with the up-tempo song “Monsters.”

The track’s official video is a glorious celebration of identity, featuring genderfluid performers and drag artists – and a very queer reenactment of The Last Supper.

But the on-stage performance appears took a different route, featuring dancers in militaristic uniforms gathered around a giant Illuminati-esque pyramid and Aalto trapped to a rotating wheel.

Aalto previously told PinkNews the song is about “living life as you want, finding your strength, being brave as who you are and not being afraid to show it.”

She added: “I am very proud to be lesbian and I feel very much like I am lesbian, totally.”


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