Eurovision under fire again for allowing Israel’s participation

Israel revised its song entry twice due to criticism that some lyrics were “political,” but many are protesting its very presence in the contest.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The organizers of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest put out another statement Wednesday defending the decision to allow Israel to participate in the annual event, in light of the ongoing protest against the Jewish state due to the war in Gaza.

Reminding detractors that broadcasters, not governments, are the invitees, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) “acknowledge[d] the depth of feeling and the strong opinions that this year’s Eurovision Song Contest – set against the backdrop of a terrible war in the Middle East – has provoked.”

“However,” it added, “while we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to express opinions in a democratic society, we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest. This is unacceptable and totally unfair, given the artists have no role in this decision.”

The artists come “to share their music, culture, and the universal message of unity through the language of music,” and should be allowed to do so in “a safe and supportive environment for all participants, staff, and fans.”

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Several countries, including Finland and Iceland, have threatened to pull out of the contest due to Israel’s participation, with over a thousand of their artists saying they should boycott due to Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza.

In Sweden, which is hosting the event in Malmo, a city that has become synonymous with antisemitism due to its large Muslim population, a matching number of performers demanded Israel’s ouster in an open letter in the local press in January.

Israel twice knuckled under to EBU demands to change its song entry due to the inclusion of “political” lyrics, which allegedly violated the contest’s guidelines.

The first song alluded to the Hamas massacre of innocent Israelis in its October 7 invasion of Gazan envelope communities and especially the Nova dance festival, where over 350 young people were slaughtered alone.

Objectionable lines included, “They were all good children, each and every one of them” and its name, “October Rain.”

Lyrics in the revised entry, renamed “Dance Forever,” were also deemed inappropriate. While its message was one of hope, it could also be read as a reference to Nova – if one knew what happened there, with lines such as, “I’m a fighter, don’t stop the music, turn it up louder… Oh, dance like an angel, Oh, you will remember that we will dance forever, we will dance again.”

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The entry that was finally accepted is called “Hurricane,” and more of a romantic ballad. The line “Baby, promise me you hold me again/I’m still taken from this hurricane” got through the censorship.

Yoav Tzafir, the director and producer of the Israeli delegation, defended the revisions, which at first the Israeli broadcaster, Kan, had refused to make.

“I think our participation in Eurovision is very important,” he said. “I supported the president’s view that believed our non-participation could lead to non-participation in other sporting and cultural events as well.”

“However, we had a red line,” he added. “We were not willing to send a shallow pop song. We changed the lyrics, but the song remains a powerful and moving ballad that speaks of heartache. Personal heartache, but a song that Israelis can also relate to this year.”

Israel, represented by singer Eden Golan, is not expected to win the contest this year, according to the current odds tables. It is set to take place Tuesday, May 7 through Saturday, May 11.