Why was Israel forced to change its entry for Eurovision? | Israel's War on Gaza News

For some, it's the Oscars. For others it's Rio's Carnival. For many, there's no annual event like Eurovision, the international song contest extravaganza that attracts millions of viewers and features everything from power ballads and punk rock to death metal and folk dance.

But Israel's war on Gaza has taken center stage in a generally non-political contest because of a row over Israeli entry.

In February, the competition's organizers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), rejected Israel's entry for the song October Rain on the grounds that it referred to the victims of the October 7 attacks by Hamas on southern Israel. Politics.

Israel, who will compete in the second semi-final of the competition on May 9, hoping to reach the final two days later in Malmö, Sweden, initially refused to rework the song. But on Sunday, Edan Golan, a 20-year-old from the country, performed Hurricane, an edited version of October Rain, live on Israeli television.

However, Palestinian supporters have called for Israel to be kicked out of the competition altogether.

Loreen from Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in Liverpool, England. Sweden will host this year's tournament in Malmö [Anthony Devlin/Getty Images]

How has Israel's song changed?

The original song included „Writers of history/Stand with me,” „Still wet in this October rain/October rain,” „No air to breathe” and „They're all good kids, each one of them.” These were considered too politically charged by Eurovision organizers and Hamas. 1,139 Israelis were killed in the attack.

At first, Khan, the Israeli public broadcaster responsible for selecting the country's entry, refused to accept the EBU's decision. But after Israeli Chancellor Isaac Herzog intervened, Khan dropped his opposition.

The public broadcaster said: “Especially at a time when those who hate us seek to boycott and boycott the State of Israel at every turn, the President urged Israel to raise its voice with pride, hold its head high and raise its flag. At every world forum, especially this year.”

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Khan said the new track is a love song with lyrics like „Dancing in the storm, got nothing to hide/Take it off and leave the world/Baby, you hold me back/I promise I'm still made of this.” Hurricane.”

The hurricane retains the same melody as the disqualified October rain.

What was the reaction to the new song in Israel?

When Hurricane was announced as the new song entry on Sunday, Colon himself stated: „I'm done [competing] Not in a simple year.”

„But on the other hand”, he added, „I want to represent the country this year because of its meaning. It has a completely different significance. And everything we feel in those three minutes and everything the country goes through – we can convey to the world through song.”

In Israel – which has hosted Eurovision three times (in 1979, 1999 and 2019) and won four times since its debut in 1973 (in 1978, 1979, 1998 and 2018) – emotions run deep.

Tudi Fatimer, writing in The Jerusalem Report on Tuesday, criticized the hurricane as „boring” and „mundane.”

„Another glaring shortcoming is that everything is in English except for a couple of sentences in Hebrew where Golan sings,” Fattimer added. „In general, I understand the need for English, but in a period when Israeli existence is at stake, a song that is entirely or mostly in Hebrew has an interpretive message, and Golan performs here in this competition, not to explain to us. (She has no chance of winning, not even remotely). „

How did pro-Palestinian campaigners react?

The Palestinian Campaign for an Educational and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has called for a boycott of Eurovision this year. In January, more than 1,400 professional musicians from Finland signed a petition asking the EBU to expel Israel from the competition.

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But last month, the EBU's director-general, Noel Curran, said Israel would remain in the competition.

„The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political music event and a competition between public service broadcasters who are members of the EBU,” said Curran. „This is not a competition between governments.”

Some have drawn parallels with the 2022 EBU decision to expel Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine that year, but Curran rejected the comparison.

„As for Russia, Russian broadcasters have been suspended from the EBU for continuing violations of membership obligations and violations of public service values,” he said.

The Netherlands won Eurovision 2019
Duncan Lawrence representing the Netherlands won the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel. [Michael Campanella/Getty Images]

Were there objections to Israel's participation before this?

When the Israeli city of Tel Aviv hosted the Eurovision final in 2019, pro-Palestinian activists described Eurovision as an exercise in „art laundering”.

That year, campaigners held their own version of Globalvision in an effort to highlight Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. On the same day as Eurovision, Globalvision broadcast live performances by international artists in the occupied West Bank, Haifa, London and Dublin.

During Eurovision 2019, Iceland's entry, Hadari, drew the ire of the EBU after displaying a scarf emblazoned with Palestinian flags, for which Iceland's national broadcaster RÚV was fined 5,000 euros ($5,456). This year, Palestinian singer Bashar Murad competed to represent Iceland at Eurovision, but was defeated by Icelandic singer Hera Björk.

Is Israel the only non-European country participating?

Israel was allowed to enter Eurovision 50 years ago because the country's national broadcaster was a member of the EBU.

In fact, any country in the world can participate in the competition as long as it has a broadcaster operating within Europe that is part of the EBU.

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Australia, a longtime Eurovision fan, was admitted in 2015. Armenia joined the competition in 2006, followed by Azerbaijan in 2011.

In contrast, Arabic-speaking countries have limited engagement with the competition. In 1980, Morocco entered the competition for the first and only time with a single Arabic song. Tunisia and Lebanon withdrew in 1977 and 2005, respectively, after refusing to broadcast Israeli state content.

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