in the spotlight, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shakes up the Eurovision contest

in the spotlight, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shakes up the Eurovision contest
in the spotlight, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shakes up the Eurovision contest

DECRYPTION – The participation of an Israeli singer led to widespread controversy, even behind the scenes of the competition. Many candidates have also slipped references to the conflict, although prohibited, into their songs or their performances.

The management of Eurovision tries, in vain, to remind people that the cultural event is “apolitical” and asks artists – and the public – not to brandish symbols linked to conflicts. But the reality is quite different. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been exported to the European scene and is shaking up the competition. Several controversies have exploded in recent weeks around several candidates, including the Israeli singer.

Eden Golan, 20, faced criticism after advancing to the final on Thursday night. Numerous calls from Scandinavian artists and associations had called for Israel to be excluded from the competition, in the same way as Russia which was banned from the competition in 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine. Nearly 12,000 people demonstrated, along with Greta Thunberg, in the streets of Malmö, Sweden, where the musical event takes place. A new gathering is already planned for Saturday.

“October rain”

Faced with fears of an attack, security had been heavily reinforced. Because concern is growing in Sweden after the Koran burnings which took place in 2023, making the country a target of Islamists. The inhabitants of Malmö are very mobilized for the Palestinian cause. Every weekend since the Hamas attack, Palestinian flags have flown from the windows and in the streets of this city classified politically on the left.

This demonstration caused a reaction even in Germany, where the Minister of Culture Claudia Roth described it as“unacceptable” calls for a boycott against Israel, “in Europe and Germany”. She also mentioned on X a strengthening “creepy” security measures to protect Israeli nationals and Jews. “Anti-Semitism, hatred and violence have no place in such an important musical event”she added.

But the candidate from the Jewish state first made headlines because of the lyrics of her song. If Eden Golan qualified with her title Hurricanehis initial piece was titled October rain, an unequivocal reference to the deadly Hamas attack on October 7. The Israeli Broadcasting Company (KAN) responsible for Eurovision in Israel had demanded changes to the text. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the Eurovision contest, prohibits words that could be assimilated to political positions.

Irish against Israeli participation

But Eden Golan is not the only candidate to have been called to order. Swedish singer Eric Saade, of Palestinian origin, was reprimanded after wrapping his wrist with a keffiyeh during the opening concert. Just like the Irish singer, Bambie Thug, openly pro-Palestinian, who had to remove the inscriptions supporting Gaza, “ceasefire” And “freedom for Palestine”, on his costume. The candidate describes herself as a “queer ouija pop star” – a board supposed to allow communication with spirits – and is nicknamed “the witch” by the Irish media.

Bambie Thug was also encouraged by more than 400 Irish artists to withdraw from the competition, as a sign of protest against Israel’s participation. These artists declare in their letter that“by participating in Eurovision, Bambie Thug stands with the oppressor”. They also add that the Palestinians asked the artists to boycott this competition. So Bambie Thug should choose to be “on the right side of history”, they continue. According to them, this competition would be a means of “whiten” the crimes “genocidists” against the Palestinians. Added to this letter is another signed by more than 16,000 Irish viewers. And they go further. They are asking the director general of RTE, Ireland’s biggest channel, to withdraw the country from Eurovision.

But event organizers dismissed the idea of ​​excluding Israel in mid-February: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political musical event and competition between public service broadcasters who are members of the EBU. This is not a competition between governments.” Regarding comparisons with the exclusion of Russia, “[elles] are complex and difficult and it is not up to us to establish them”continued Noel Curran, director general of the EBU.

Turmoil behind the scenes

The tensions surrounding the conflict between Hamas and Israel are even felt behind the scenes of Eurovision. Particularly between Eden Golan and the Dutch candidate Joost Klein. At the end of the semi-final on Thursday evening, the 26-year-old expressed his disagreement with being placed next to Israeli representative Eden Golan, notably covering his face with the Dutch flag on several occasions.

Another incident, during a press conference which brought them together with other participants this Friday, May 10, the Israeli singer was asked a sensitive question by a journalist: “Have you ever considered that by being here you are putting other participants at risk and danger?” The young woman imposed a silence of several seconds, before a member of the tele-hook team explained to her that she was not “no obligation to answer if [elle] don’t want it”.

Two chairs away, Joost Klein, who was slumped in his chair and had placed a red sheet over his head, immediately woke up to scream “Why not ?”. Is this the reason why, also this Friday afternoon, the EBU announced the suspension of the candidate from the Netherlands who “will not repeat again until further notice” ? There is no certainty at this stage, the organizers having just justified their decision due to a “incident”. According to public television SVT, the“incident” mentioned by the EBU would be a confrontation between Joost Klein and a photographer.

Eden Golan finally answered the question by stating that the candidates are all there to “for one and only reason” and that the organizers take “all necessary precautions to make this place a safe and united place for all”. “I think that’s the case for everyone and we wouldn’t be here”she added.

Eurovision politicized

Joost Klein is known to be pro-European. In his piece Europapahe sings the colors of the EU flag. “Europe, let’s unite! It’s now or never ! I love you all !”, he shouts at the start of his song, one month before the European elections. Words that resemble the motto of the 27: “United in diversity”. In his clip, the singer with peroxide bangs appears like a politician in a blue blazer with oversized shoulder pads, in front of microphones and in front of European flags.

An allusion which recalls that last autumn, the nationalist party of Geert Wilders, against immigration and eurosceptic, came first in the legislative elections in the Netherlands with a historic score of 23% of the votes. In his piece, Joost Klein, on the other hand, praises the abolition of the borders of the Shengen space: “I want to leave the Netherlands but I lost my passport. Luckily, I don’t need a visa to be near you.” “Music is an iceberg that people only see the tip of. I don’t blame them but I invite them to look below the surface.explains the singer at 20 minutes.

Read alsoStéphane Bern: “I deplore the politicization of Eurovision”

The politicization of Eurovision is not new, explains Oranie Abbes, teacher-researcher at the University of Lorraine and Eurovision specialist, on France Musique. “Despite being officially apolitical, the Eurovision Song Contest has always been politicized. For example, in 1990, five songs were dedicated to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which had occurred a little less than a year earlier. she elaborates before adding: “In 1980, Morocco referred to the oil crisis of 1979. More recently, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has come up numerous times in Ukraine’s performances.” In 2022, the Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra won the competition with a title referring to the Russian invasion.



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