Published On: Sun, Feb 4th, 2024
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Israel faces being kicked out of Eurovision as organiser accused of ‘double standard’ | World | News

Loreen standing on the Eurovision stage in 2023

Sweden is set to host the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest (Image: GETTY)

Israel’s attendance at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest has become a thorny issue for the event’s organiser as several artists and pro-Palestine activists are calling for the country to be kicked out of the beloved festival.

The 68th edition of the music festival will kick off on May 7 and will be hosted by Sweden after the victory in 2023 of singer Loreen.

But the presence at the beloved music contest of four-time winner Israel as the war in Gaza continues to rage is not being universally welcomed.

More than 1,000 Swedish musicians signed in late January an open letter addressing the Eurovision’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and argued that Israel should not have a place in the contest in light of the “humanitarian disaster” unfolding in the Gaza Strip. According to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 27,000 people have been killed in the Strip since the beginning of Israel‘s military action, launched in response to the harrowing October 7 terror attack.

Referring to decisions taken in recent years by the EBU, the musicians agreeing with this letter believe the EBU is “exhibiting a remarkable double standard that undermines the organisation’s credibility”.

Loreen raising her trophy at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest

Singer Loreen won the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest held in Liverpool (Image: GETTY)

The letter also read: “The EBU justifies its position by saying that the Eurovision Song Contest is a competition between public service companies rather than states.

“But the EBU chose in 2022 to exclude Russia from the competition due to the invasion of Ukraine, and in 2021 member companies from Belarus were denied entry to the competition because the country violated the EBU’s press freedom rules.”

As noted in this open letter, Russia was told in February 2022, just days after launching its illegal invasion of Ukraine, it could no longer participate in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

This decision came after state broadcasters from several countries including Ukraine, Iceland, Finland and Norway had urged the EBU to ban Russia from the event.

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Only three months away from the week-long Eurovision programme, the EBU is facing pressure to exclude Israel by musicians also in Finland, who asked their country’s broadcaster Yle to urge the event’s organiser to prevent “a country that commits war crimes and continues a military occupation [from getting] a public stage to polish its image in the name of music”.

Moreover, RTÉ has received nearly 500 emails calling the Irish broadcaster to withdraw from Eurovision if Israel was allowed to attend it.

And in Norway, pro-Palestinian activists were photographed protesting half-naked outside the country’s broadcaster NKR – a pose reminiscent of pictures from Gaza showing Palestinians arrested by the IDF stripped down and kneeling on the ground.

EBU Director General Noel Curran said in a statement the organisation has reviewed “the participants list for the 2024 Contest and agreed that the Israeli public broadcaster KAN met all the competition rules for this year”.

Noa Kirel standing next to a flag of Israel

Noa Kirel was the artist performing for Israel at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest (Image: GETTY)

Other international organisations, Mr Curran added, have taken similar decisions and maintained their “inclusive stance towards Israeli participants”.

Mr Curran also tried to fend off accusations of double standards, saying Russia was banned after its broadcaster’s “persistent breaches of membership obligations and the violation of public service media values”. Israel‘s KAN, on the other hand, has a “fundamentally different” relationship with its country’s government than state broadcasters and the Kremlin.

The EBU has been stressing for years in the Eurovision’s rules that the contest is strictly “non-political”. One of its regulations read: “All Participating Broadcasters, including the Host Broadcaster, shall be responsible to ensure that all necessary measures are undertaken within in their respective Delegations and teams to safeguard the interests and the integrity of the ESC and to make sure that the ESC shall in no case be politicised and/or instrumentalised and/or otherwise brought into disrepute in any way.”

Nevertheless, the huge tribute paid to Ukraine during the 2023 Eurovision held in Liverpool was seen by many as a show of support for the war-torn country which, despite winning the previous edition, could not host the event as a result of the Russian invasion.

For its part, Israel has responded to calls the country should be excluded from the Eurovision through its ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman.

He wrote on X last month: “On October 7, Israeli civilians were attacked by a brutal terrorist organisation. To call for a boycott of Israel is to support Hamas – and to put a price on terrorism. Keep politics out of Eurovision.”

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