Eurovision overtaken by the war in Gaza with the participation of Israel in the final | TV5MONDE

Eurovision overtaken by the war in Gaza with the participation of Israel in the final | TV5MONDE
Eurovision overtaken by the war in Gaza with the participation of Israel in the final | TV5MONDE

The final of the Eurovision song contest takes place on Saturday in Malmö, Sweden, in a context of tension heightened by the participation of the Israeli candidate, in the middle of the war in Gaza.

Police reinforcements came from across the Scandinavian country but also from Denmark and Norway to ensure the security of the event, for which nearly 100,000 fans from 90 countries are expected.

Police estimate that up to 20,000 people could demonstrate during the day against Israeli participation in this town in southern Sweden, which has the largest community of Palestinian origin in the country.

The young Israeli singer, Eden Golan, 20, won her ticket to the final on Thursday evening with the song “Hurricane”, the initial version of which had to be modified because it was considered to allude to the Hamas attack which bloodied Israel on October 7.

Twenty-six countries in total will compete on Saturday to succeed Sweden as winner of this competition which was followed in 2023 by 162 million viewers.

Calls for boycott

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which oversees this glittering music event, confirmed Eden Golan’s participation in March despite criticism.

More recently, nine of the participants, seven of whom are in the final, called for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, where Israel is increasing its strikes.

Israel has participated in Eurovision since 1973, which it won for the fourth time in 2018. “It’s really an honor to be here (…) to present ourselves with pride”, rejoiced on Thursday. Israeli candidate who appeared on Saturday morning in second place among the favorites behind Croatia.

Before the semi-final, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu judged that Eden Golan had “already won”, hailing her in a video message for having “successfully confronted a horrible wave of anti-Semitism”.

On Friday, the Spanish far-left Sumar party – whose leader Yolanda Diaz is number three in the government – launched a petition to demand the exclusion of Israel from the final “at a time when its troops are exterminating the Palestinian people and destroying all the region”.

Berlin responded by judging that “calls for a boycott against the participation of Israeli artists” were “totally unacceptable”, with Paris emphasizing for its part that “politics has no place at Eurovision”.

Neutrality

But the neutrality claimed by the EBU is being shaken up like never before.

On Tuesday, Swedish singer Eric Saade appeared with his arm girded by a Palestinian keffiyeh. And on Friday, the representative of the Netherlands, Joost Klein, who had expressed his disagreement Thursday evening with being placed next to the Israeli candidate, was deprived of a dress rehearsal.

The unions of the Flemish public television channel VRT briefly interrupted the broadcast on Thursday evening to broadcast a message condemning “violations of human rights by the State of Israel”.

A gesture regretted by the EBU, which had banned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from speaking during the competition last year, in the name of political neutrality.

This year, the conflict in Ukraine has been overshadowed by the war in Gaza, triggered by the attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement, which left more than 1,170 dead, according to an AFP report based on official Israeli data.

In response, the Israeli army launched an offensive in Gaza, which has left 34,943 dead so far, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

On Thursday, nearly 12,000 people, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, had already demonstrated in Malmö against Israel’s participation.

“No threat”

For Sally Sadler, a British fan, these gatherings darken the party “a little”. “It’s all about unity and music. We are all here together, all nations, for love and not for hate.”

In the enclosure, any flag other than those of the participants are prohibited, as are any banners with a political message.

“I think everyone is safe,” Eden Golan said at a press conference. The Swedish police assured that “there was no threat directed against Eurovision”. Last summer, Sweden raised its terrorist alert level after acts of desecration of the Koran.

As for the festivities, the 2024 edition offers a wide range of musical genres, from ballads to electro. Malmö, Sweden’s third city, hopes to offer fans “the time of their lives”, as Abba, who gave the country the Eurovision crown half a century ago, sang.

This year a lot of songs “deal with mental health – many young artists say they don’t feel well and struggle with their identity” as is the case with Nemo (Switzerland), explains Andreas Önnefors, competition specialist.

Eden Golan assured that her song “Hurricane” spoke “of a young girl who is going through her own problems, her own emotions”.

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