People protest against Israel's inclusion in Eurovision / Lehtikuva

Culture
Tools
Typography

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) remains silent on whether Israel will participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. Amidst this uncertainty, Israel has signalled its intent to withdraw if the EBU decides against Eden Golan's entry, "October Rain."

Outi Hakola, a researcher specializing in media and pop culture, suggests that disqualifying the song could defuse current tensions. "It would offer many parties a way out of this difficult politicized situation," Hakola explains. Echoing this sentiment, Janne Mäkelä, a cultural history researcher at the University of the Arts Helsinki, posits, "Rejection would allow Israel to withdraw from the contest without losing face. I suspect this is the outcome we will ultimately see." Mäkelä also entertains the slim possibility of Israel proposing an alternative entry, though he doubts this path will be taken, viewing it as a matter of national honour for the country. 

Eden Golan, representing Israel, had three songs at his disposal, with one already being set aside by the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation KAN. The lyrics of "October Rain" evoke a desire to escape global turmoil, dancing amidst a storm and embracing the melancholy of October's rain, without directly addressing political themes. Mäkelä notes, "If the song is rejected because of its lyrics, Israel would have a good reason to claim they have been treated unfairly."

Israel's Minister of Culture and Sports, Miki Zohar, has indicated that such a rejection would be perceived as a political move by the EBU. "The EBU has previously demanded changes to lyrics and excluded participants because of overly political lyrics," says Hakola, highlighting past precedents of lyrical censorship.

However, should the EBU approve "October Rain" for competition, the decision could also be seen as political. "Conversely, a large part of Europe would see it as a political decision. Whether this way or that, the EBU is in a situation where any decision is seen as political," Hakola remarks. Mäkelä adds that approval could lead to widespread protests, given Israel's contentious role, prompting speculation about potential boycotts.

Ironically the wordings of the ”October Rain” song fit the situation of Palestinians under Isreal’s bombardment and siege much better than Israelis who are living a comfortable life under the protection and support of the US and EU.  

The song has not been published, but according to Israeli media, 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. Parts of the song, in English, are as follows:

Evening/Everything is black and white/Who is the fool/ Who told you boys don't cry/Hours and hours/ and flowers/Life is not a game for the cowards.../While time goes by/Every day/I'm losing my mind/Holding on

While 29 children have been killed in Hamas October attack, Isreal has killed at least 12,660 children in the revenge attacks on Gaza so far.

The general public in EBU member countries are overwhelmingly outraged and frustrated by EBUs lack of courage to kick out Isreal, which according to the public opinion is committing a genocide in Gaza as we speak and is being tried in the ICJ for that crime. If Isreal would be allowed to participate in could cause a boycott form some participants, see of Palestinian flags in the venue and most probably booing of the Israeli contestant.

With 37 countries set to participate this year, opposition to Israel's inclusion has been most vocal in the Nordic countries and Ireland. Despite this, Finland's Broadcasting Company has elected to follow the EBU's lead and participate, irrespective of Israel's involvement.

Mäkelä underscores that rejection could still occur for other reasons, pointing out, "Lyrics are just one part of possible political messaging. It could also be about how the song is presented and what visual context surrounds it." The EBU's awareness of the broader atmosphere surrounding the contest suggests a nuanced approach to decision-making. "The EBU is in no way deaf or blind to various demands, even if it couldn't fully comply with them," concludes Hakola.

Last year's Isreal representative has been actively promoting the army as screenshot of google image search depicts

 

The Eurovision Song Contest, an annual event celebrated for its dazzling array of musical talent and cultural display, finds itself at the heart of a geopolitical storm this year. Calls for Israel's exclusion from the 2024 competition have intensified, stemming from the nation's military atrocities and mass killing of defenceless Palestinian women and children in Gaza. 

A coalition of over 20 European politicians has reached out to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the contest's organiser, demanding Israel's disqualification. The politicians argue that Israel's inclusion serves to obscure its military conduct and policies in Palestine, likening it to "whitewashing" a regime accused of committing war crimes and engaging in ethnic cleansing.

This year's contest is slated for May, hosted in Sweden's Malmo Arena, thanks to Swedish singer Loreen's victory in the previous year. The letter penned by the politicians, including members of the European Parliament and Spain's Podemos party, stresses the contradiction between Israel's participation and the EBU's commitment to keeping the Eurovision Song Contest a non-political event. They reference past actions taken by the EBU, such as the exclusion of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and the fine imposed on Iceland for a political display during the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv.

The debate over Israel's participation is not limited to political corridors. Musicians in Sweden, artists in Finland, and protesters across Europe, including in Norway and Ireland, have voiced their opposition, urging national broadcasters to advocate for Israel's exclusion. This sentiment is echoed by Eurovision fans, some of whom have pledged to boycott the event if Israel competes. They argue that the contest, despite its entertainment value, should not turn a blind eye to geopolitical issues, especially given the precedent set with Russia.

The EBU's decision-making process regarding "October Rain" remains confidential, leaving the Eurovision community in suspense. Israel's participation, and the selection of its entry song, continue to be a focal point of controversy, reflecting broader tensions and the complex interplay between culture, politics, and international relations.

As the debate unfolds, the Eurovision Song Contest finds itself at a crossroads, challenged to balance its ethos of inclusivity and non-political stance with the realities of global conflicts and the demands of its diverse audience. The outcome of this controversy will likely resonate far beyond the final notes of the 2024 competition, underscoring the event's unexpected role on the world stage.

 Finland's representatives Teemu Keisteri, the creator of the Windows95man character, and singer Henri Piispanen / Lehtikuva

 

Yle, the Finnish broadcasting company, aligns itself with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)'s decisions regarding participants in the Eurovision Song Contest, confirming that Windows95man will represent Finland at the contest in Malmö. This decision was made in collaboration with the artist who won the UMK (Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu - Finland's national selection for Eurovision). Yle and the artist are continuing preparations for the competition to be held in Malmö in May. "We believe the only correct action for the EBU would be to exclude Israel from the competition. However, we do not feel that withdrawing ourselves would influence this decision. Instead, we have initiated discussions on joint efforts to exert influence with representatives from other countries, using our position to apply pressure on the decision-making EBU," stated Teemu Keisteri, the creator of the Windows95man character, along with singer Henri Piispanen. Yle has communicated the discussions held in Finland and the Finnish representative's viewpoint to the EBU. "Yle has decided to respect the European Broadcasting Union's judgment on participating broadcasters. We recognise that there are various justified perspectives on this matter. We hope for a peaceful resolution to the situation in the Middle East as soon as possible," said Ville Vilén, Director of Creative Content and Media at Yle. The Eurovision Song Contest is scheduled to take place in Malmö from May 7 to May 11, 2024.

A post by YLE on instagram received dozens of angry comments.

”sallimagdaleena” writes:
"Disgusting behavior from Yle to hide behind the EBU and leave the responsibility on the artist's shoulders. Israel is continuously killing thousands of civilians. But yeah, if the situation worsens, etc. Disgusting."

”fine_it_will_be” says:
"Non-news: YLE throws UMK artists under the bus and grabs headlines while at the same time trying desperately to erase their own responsibility into invisibility."

”saaraobele” wrote:
"Good luck to Teemu and Henri O. I hope you start a petition. I for one won't watch if Israel is included. I wish Yle had some backbone, now the artists are completely thrown under the bus!”

Thousands of angry comments from other Eurovision fans have also been posted on other media: “I’m a huge Eurovision fan. It should just be a bit of fun, but we all know behind the glitz and glamour, geopolitical games are at play,” Ciara Greene, a Belgium-based fan told Al Jazeera. “The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, it was rightly excluded from the song contest. Allowing Israel to participate contributes to Israeli exceptionalism and normalises the state’s genocidal policies.”

Almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since October last year, the vast majority of whom are women and children, with much of the Strip rendered uninhabitable by Israel’s ground and air assault. In January, the UN’s highest legal body ruled that Israel was plausibly committing genocide in Gaza. 

 

HT

Partners