Israel to perform at Eurovision amid protests

Israeli Eurovision Song Contest entrant Eden Golan will perform at the second semi-final as protests take place in Malmo, Sweden.

The 20-year-old singer, whose emotional Hurricane was reworked from a previous track called October Rain, which was thought to reference the Hamas attacks on Israel, will take to the stage on Thursday evening.

Israel has faced calls to be excluded from the contest amid the war in the Gaza Strip, where the Health Ministry, run by the proscribed terrorist organisation Hamas, puts the Palestinian death toll at more than 34,000 people.

There have been continued demonstrations in Sweden over Israel’s participation, and the week of Eurovision has already seen small gatherings in Malmo and at the Eurovision village when Austrian 2014 winner Conchita Wurst was on stage.

Golan will compete against Norway’s Gate, San Marino’s band Megara, Switzerland’s Nemo and Danish entrant Saba, who called for a ceasefire in Gaza and the “safe return” of Israeli hostages in a joint statement in March.

The artists rejected calls from Palestinian groups to boycott the music contest, saying that they “firmly believe in the unifying power of music”.

Golan, who has been singing and dancing on stage since she was a child, told ITV News this week that she could not have asked “for a better year to be representing my country”.

Sweden Eurovision Song Contest Dress Rehearsal
Joost Klein of the Netherlands performs the song Europapa (Martin Meissner/AP)

The group, whose members approved Israeli broadcaster Kan, has taken a strong stance, as in previous years, against political messages at Eurovision and flags and symbols from non-competing countries.

Despite the position, Tuesday’s first semi-final saw former Swedish contestant and opening act Eric Saade wear a keffiyeh pattern material, commonly used by people who want to show they are pro-Palestinian, on his arm.

The EBU said that he “chose to compromise the non-political nature of the event” and it “regrets” the broadcast.

In an Instagram story, Saade said that the material was a “way of showing a part of my origin” and was a gift as a child from his father, who is of Palestinian origin.

He also said: “I just wanted to be inclusive and wear something that is authentic to me – but the EBU seems to think my ethnicity is controversial.

“It says nothing about me, but everything about them.”

It also told Irish finalist Bambie Thug to change their body paint, which referenced the artist’s call for a ceasefire, before going on stage as the EBU maintains this could have broken the rules that are “designed to protect the non-political nature of the event”.

Sweden Eurovision Song Contest
A man holds a Palestinian flag as he protests ahead of the first semi-final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden (Martin Meissner/AP)

It has won a total of four times, and will face tough competition this year from Switzerland’s Nemo, whose operatic-pop music The Code has been seen as one of the favourites to win on Saturday.

The rehearsals have already shown Golan back bending in a white dress before emerging in a circle flanked by dancers as well as being bathed with yellow light as the song reaches its crescendo.

There were shouts at the rehearsals on Wednesday, which reportedly included boos and people saying “free Palestine”.

Netherlands act Joost Klein, with the irreverent and silly Europapa, and Norway’s Gate with folkish Ulveham are also seen as likely to progress to the final.

France’s Slimane with the soulful Mon Amour will also perform on Thursday, alongside Italy’s Angelina Mango with La Noia and Spain’s Nebulossa with Zorra, but is already through to the final as one of the big EBU donators alongside the UK with Olly Alexander and Germany with Isaak.

The 2024 hosts of Eurovision are Swedish comedian Petra Mede and Hollywood actress Malin Akerman.

BBC One and BBC iPlayer begin the broadcast of the second semi-final from 8pm on Thursday.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –