Spectators cheer during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 14, 2022 at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin. LEHTIKUVA / AFP


The Eurovision Song Contest, an annual event celebrated for its diverse showcase of musical talent across Europe and beyond, is facing a wave of controversy this year, sparked by Finnish rapper Jesse Markin's bold statement. Markin, a finalist in Finland's UMK Contest for New Music and a contender to represent the country at Eurovision, has publicly declared that he will not participate in the Eurovision Song Contest if Israel is allowed to compete.

This announcement comes amidst a backdrop of international criticism directed at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organiser of the Eurovision Song Contest, for permitting Israel's participation. Critics cite Israel's actions in Gaza as a primary concern, leading to calls for a boycott. The situation echoes a similar scenario in 2022 when Russia was banned swiftly from the contest after invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's ban from the Eurovision Song Contest was a decision made by the EBU in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine, reflecting a stand against actions considered to be in stark violation of the contest's values and the broader principles of international law and cooperation. Considering that Israel has killed more civilians and children in 90 days in Gaza than were killed in the entire Ukraine war, it is surprising that EBU has not already banned Israel.

Markin's stance is not isolated. Sini Sabotage, another UMK finalist, expressed similar sentiments, stating that she would reconsider her participation if she wins the qualifier, citing a reluctance to support war. The remaining five UMK finalists are awaiting further decisions from the EBU and Yle, Finland's public broadcaster responsible for organising the UMK competition.

The controversy has gained momentum with over 1,400 professionals in the Finnish music industry signing a petition urging Yle to pressure the EBU to either ban Israel from this year's contest or to boycott it entirely. The petition highlights ethical concerns, stating, "It is not in accordance with our values that a country that commits war crimes and continues a military occupation is given a public stage to polish its image in the name of music."

This situation reflects the complex interplay between cultural events like Eurovision and the broader political landscape. In this case, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and actions in Gaza have become focal points of international debate and protest.

Anssi Autio, UMK's executive producer, clarified that Markin's announcement does not affect his participation in UMK, as it is a separate competition. Autio noted that the situation might change by the time UMK's final takes place, and the EBU might have made a decision regarding Israel's participation.

Yle's response has been cautious, with Creative Director Ville Vilén stating that the broadcaster is closely monitoring the situation and awaiting the EBU's decision. The EBU, for its part, has maintained that the Eurovision Song Contest is a competition between broadcasting companies, not governments, and has not indicated any obstacles to Israel's participation, highlighting that the contest is intended to be a non-political event uniting audiences through music.

This unfolding scenario presents a challenge for the EBU and national broadcasters, balancing the non-political ethos of Eurovision with the ethical and political concerns raised by participants and the public. The decision ahead for the EBU and Yle could have significant implications for the future of the contest and its role as a platform for cultural expression amid complex global issues.