Controversial lyrics might disqualify Israel from Eurovision

The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 is taking place in Malmö, Sweden, following the Scandinavian country’s victory at the 2023 song contest.

By Eran Swissa and JNS Staff

Israel’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 is “October Rain,” with a clear reference to the horrific events of Oct. 7, resulting in a clash with contest organizers over its alleged political message.

The last three lines of the song, which is mostly sung in English, are in Hebrew, describing the condition of Israeli civilians during the Hamas attack: “There’s no air left to breathe / No place, no me from day to day.”

The song ends with “They were all good children, each one of them,” sung in a relatively low voice compared to the rest of the song—a moving and powerful ballad, building up to its climax in the final part.

The description of the situation in Israel throughout the song will likely be the center of the dispute between Israeli public broadcaster Kan and the European Broadcasting Union, the organizer of the event.

In one of the verses, the Israeli contestant, Eden Golan, will sing the word “flowers,” which every Israeli knows in this context is Israel Defense Forces slang for fallen soldiers, but which does not carry the same connotations for European viewers.

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If the song is disqualified on the grounds that it violates the rules, there is the possibility that Kan will refuse to amend the text and Israel will not participate in the contest.

“The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel in Eurovision,” said Kan.

Last week, contest organizers reaffirmed that Israel will be allowed to compete amid the war against Hamas, rejecting parallels drawn by pro-Palestinian activists with Russia’s exclusion from the competition over its invasion of Ukraine.

“Comparisons between war and conflict are complex and difficult and, as an apolitical media organization, it is not our place to make them,” EBU Director-General Noel Curran told AFP.

A review by the EBU’s governing bodies found “that the Israeli public broadcaster Kan met all the competition rules for this year and can participate, as it has for the past 50 years,” Curran noted.

The EBU head said his organization was “aware” of voices calling for the Jewish state to be excluded from this year’s competition.

“However, the Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political musical event and a competition between public service broadcasters that are members of the EBU. It is not a competition between governments,” Curran said.

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The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 is taking place in Malmö, Sweden, following the Scandinavian country’s victory at the 2023 song contest. Eden Golan, 20, will represent the Jewish state in the second semifinal on May 9. The grand final will take place two days later, on May 11.

Last year, Israeli pop star Noa Kirel finished in third place in the Eurovision final in Liverpool, behind Sweden and Finland.