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Eurovision Song Contest: Calls to ban Israel grow – piling pressure on European broadcasters

Eurovision Song Contest: Calls to ban Israel grow – piling pressure on European broadcasters

Pressure is mounting on European broadcasters to boycott Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest because of the war in Gaza.

More than 27,000 people have been killed in Israeli military action, and over 66,000 have been injured since the conflict began, according to Gaza‘s Hamas-led health ministry. Israel retaliated after Hamas fighters killed more than 1,000 Israelis and took hundreds of hostages in attacks on 7 October last year.

It’s the second time politics has dominated Eurovision, after Russia was expelled from the 2022 contest over its invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine went on to win the competition.

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Ukrainian rap-folk group Kalush Orchestra won in 2022

Iceland is among the countries considering whether to participate this year. It has said it will decide whether or not to take part only once its representative is chosen, with the process kicking off tonight.

The Icelandic Broadcasting Authority, RUV, shared a message on its website, saying: “No decision will be made regarding Iceland’s participation in Eurovision until after the contest, and after consultation with the winner.

“The reason is the criticism that has arisen regarding Israel‘s participation in the contest, despite the war in Gaza.”

Iceland’s televised selection process, featuring 10 songs and artists, takes one month, with the results announced on 2 March. One of the contestants, Bashar Murad, is Palestinian.

Meanwhile, in Sweden more than 1,000 musicians – including Dancing On My Own singer Robyn – have written an open letter to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which organises Eurovision and SVT, which is the country’s host broadcaster, accusing them of “double standards”.

Flagging Russia’s earlier exclusion from the competition, the Swedish musicians said it was their “duty” as cultural practitioners to “bring about change and counter artwashing”.

The letter concluded: “Allowing Israel’s participation undermines not only the spirit of the competition but the entire public service mission. It also sends the signal that governments can commit war crimes without consequences. Therefore, we appeal to the EBU: Exclude Israel from the Eurovision Song Contest 2024.”

Loreen of Sweden celebrates with the trophy after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, England, Saturday, May 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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This year’s competition will be held in Malmo, Sweden. Pic: AP/Martin Meissner

Over 1,500 artists in Finland have also urged their public broadcaster, Yle, to join the calls on the EBU to exclude Israel, calling it “a country that commits war crimes”.

The Finnish artists added that a country which “continues a military occupation” should not get “a public stage to polish its image in the name of music”.

Irish broadcaster RTE has also received a petition signed by more than 500 people setting out similar demands.

In Norway last month, semi-naked protesters knelt in the snow in front of the country’s public broadcaster NRK to also demand Israel’s exclusion from Eurovision.

And in Spain, the leader of the left-wing party Podemos, Ione Belarra, has called on the Spanish Congress to debate the removal of Israel from the competition as part of “a pressure tactic to halt the genocide against Palestinian people”.

She has registered a non-legal proposal to request the debate, which if approved would urge the Spanish government to “position itself clearly against Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest”.

The EBU, which is a member-led organisation, headed by an executive board, says Eurovision is a non-political event.

It adds that Israel’s public broadcaster, KAN, “meets all the competition rules and can participate in the contest next year”.

The EBU has also said Russia’s ban resulted from “persistent breaches of membership obligations and the violation of public service media values” by Russian broadcasters. Its relationship with KAN is “fundamentally different”, the EBU added.

Olly Alexander, of music act Years & Years, will represent the UK in this year’s competition.

Alexander has also taken a public stance against Israel, and signed an open letter from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4London, which called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Israel to allow aid into the area.

Olly Alexander poses for photographers upon arrival for 'An Audience with Kylie' at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Photo by Millie Turner/Invision/AP)
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Olly Alexander. Pic: Millie Turner/Invision/AP

Noa Kirel, a former Israel Defence Forces soldier, represented Israel at Eurovision in Liverpool in 2023, finishing in fourth place.

This year’s competition will be held in Malmo, Sweden, after Loreen won the competition for a second time. The final will be held on 11 May.

Doonited Affiliated: Syndicate News Hunt

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