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Watch: Israeli singer wins EuroVision but comes under fire for cultural appropriation

Not everyone is happy with Netta Barzilai.


Netta Barzilai as well as Israelis were ecstatic when the Israeli singer won the annual international 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. Barzilai won on Saturday by singing Toy, a song written and produced by Doron Medalie and Stav Beger that was inspired by the “#MeToo” movement (video from the grand finale above, original video below). She beat singers from 43 other countries at the contest, held in Lisbon, Portugal.


“I am not your toy, you stupid boy,” the 25-year-old sang in the refrain of the pop anthem, which reflects a spirit of freedom and defiance. Barzilai was dressed in a Japanese kimono, accomanying her performance with clucking sounds, chicken dance moves and beatboxing.

Israel erupted into a state of exhilaration after the big win, as you can see below, and people poured into the streets of Tel Aviv to sing the song and celebrate. The Israeli foreign ministry even posted the song on Facebook and wrote, “Through this song, we’re trying to show the cultural diversity we have here and shatter stereotypes regarding Israel in Arab countries.”

However, Twitter users in other parts of the world weren’t entirely satisfied with the win – some criticised Israel for its policies regarding Palestine, especially over reported orders to the contest hosts not to mention Jerusalem – where the US officially shifted its embassy on Monday – during the voting process. According to Times of Israel, several pro-Palestinian banners were carried by protesters outside the venue in Portugal, but their attempts to raise them were thwarted.

Many on social media also accused Barzilai of cultural appropriation for her Japanese-themed performance. British actor Jassa Ahluwalia even dubbed it “yellowface”, reported Times of Israel.

But not everyone was offended and several people rose to the singer’s defence.

Barzilai, however, defended herself and explained to that her look stems from a love of Japanese culture and that she adopted it as a defence mechanism after being bullied at school.

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