A Maltese humanitarian and author has called on Malta's artists and musicians to refuse to participate in next year's Eurovision Song Contest which will be held in Israel. With over 100 people, including journalists and medical workers, killed by Israeli forces since Monday, Karl Schembri has called on Malta to take a moral stand.
"I hope Maltese singers can get out of their parochial pettiness, seeking stardom through a non-event, and do not miss the wood for the trees by participating in this propaganda exercise meant to whitewash everything happening to the Palestinians," he said to Lovin Malta.
"I would love to see Maltese singers and artists say, 'we can't go there, it is just not on, we can't be accomplices through our attitudes as if this is business as usual'," he said.
"Plus," he continued," everyone knows the Eurovision isn't only about music, but politics as well - now we need to take a stand and say 'no, we aren't going to Isreal's Eurovision next year'."
"It might look symbolic, but the first thing we can do is say no, next year we are not going to the Eurovision. We have to tell them: 'We won't sing as you kill people'," he said.
"It's time to cut the diplomatic crap - this is happening on our watch"
Mr Schembri works with the Norwegian Refugee Council, a humanitarian aid organisation, and has lived and worked in Gaza. He talks about 11-year-old Palestinians having lived through three armed conflicts by now.
Having seen the situation on the ground for himself, he is not hopeful for the future of the blockaded Palestinian territory.
"The situation in Gaza is getting more and more desperate every day that passes," he said. "For the last 11 years now Gaza has been blockaded and under siege, which means that people can't go in or out as they want, their movement is complete restricted."
He believes the controversial resettling of the US embassy to Jerusalem has energised the Israelis, leading to the ramping-up of conflicts in Gaza.
"They say that Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world. The only problem with that metaphor is that, in a prison, you have people who've committed a crime. Most of the people living there have absolutely nothing to do with political developments in Israel. What is happening is basically collective punishment for nearly two million people living in a piece of land about the size of Malta," he said.
Palestinians pray near the Israeli-Gaza fence
Gaza has been abandoned by the international community
Mr Schembri says the situation has been taken out of the Palestinian's control. The economy in Gaza had been completely crippled by the stronghold Israel has on what goes in and out of Israel. People waiting for medical treatment often die waiting for a permit to seek treatment, and most people are banned from travelling to meet heir families outside of Gaza.
This all led to up to this week's events where scores have been killed and hundreds more injured.
"We've seen a march at the Israeli fence this week. The fence, by the way, is not a border, but a buffer zone declared unilaterally by Israel just to cage Palestinians in Gaza," he said.
"Those protests are the result of sheer desperation - there's nothing left to lose for many Palestinians, and the only way to be seen by the outside world is by presenting themselves at the fence. Now, over 100 people have been killed," he said.
He notes that Israel often uses ammunition that expands or explodes inside the body, causing massive damage and trauma, which has led to a shocking amount of amputations alongside the deaths.
"You could send financial aid, but that’s just patchwork"
While Mr Schembri says that financial aid is always needed, aid alone is not going to change the situation many Palestinians find themselves in.
"Over 80% of people in Palestine have become dependent on humanitarian aid, and it is needed for them to survive. Ultimately however, the long term solution is citizens pressuring their governments to push for a political solution," he said.
"What we’ve been seeing over the last 70 years is a total deterioration of the lives of the people of Gaza. I'm not seeing enough of the kind of lobbying and pressuring of the government that we need," he said.
With the United Nations predicting that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020, potable water running out as unemployment remains sky high, Mr Schembri sees no possible future unless change comes.
"It's time to cut the diplomatic crap and take a stand - this is happening on our watch," he said.
If you would like to financially support humanitarian efforts in Gaza, please follow this link.