Israel threatens to withdraw from Eurovision with song under “scrutiny”

Israel have said they will withdraw from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest if the organisers attempt to censor their entry.

Earlier this month, Israel selected the 20-year-old Eden Golan as their entry for this year’s contest. Her song is titled ‘October Rain’, and, as first reported by Israel Hayom (via BBC), the lyrics appear to contain references to the victims of Hamas’ October 7 attacks.

The words to the song were leaked to the media earlier this week, and are said to include the line: “They were all good children, each one of them”. It also alludes to “flowers”, which has been noted as a potential reference to war fatalities.

In response, the European Broadcast Union, which organises the contest, has said it is “currently in the process of scrutinising the lyrics, a process which is confidential between the EBU and the broadcaster until a final decision has been taken. If a song is deemed unacceptable for any reason, broadcasters are then given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics.”

The broadcaster that carries the contest in Israel, KAN, has said that it would refuse any request for the lyrics to be changed.

“It should be noted that as far as the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is concerned there is no intention to replace the song,” they said. “This means that if it is not approved by the European Broadcasting Union, Israel will not be able to participate in the competition, which will take place in Sweden next May.”

The selection of Golan came in the midst of the contest receiving backlash and boycott calls after allowing the country to compete. The country has been included on the list of participating contestants in Sweden in 2024, leading many to call for the country to be banned from the contest due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Last month, an open letter was issued to the European Broadcast Union, signed by over 1,000 Swedish artists including RobynFever Ray, and First Aid Kit – calling for Israel to be withdrawn from competing at the finale in Malmö, Sweden on May 11.

Norway Entry Alessandra performs on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2023
Norway Entry Alessandra performs on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2023. CREDIT: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

“The fact that countries that place themselves above humanitarian law are welcomed to participate in international cultural events trivialises violations of international law and makes the suffering of the victims invisible,” the letter reads.

Continuing, it adds that: “Allowing Israel’s participation undermines not only the spirit of the competition but the entire public service mission. It also sends the signal that governments can commit war crimes without consequences.”

On the other side of the argument, Sharon Osbourne, Gene Simmons and Boy George are among the famous faces who have signed an open letter, urging Eurovision organisers to allow Israel to compete this year.

Published by the non-profit organisation ‘Creative Community for Peace’, the letter reads in part: “We have been shocked and disappointed to see some members of the entertainment community calling for Israel to be banished from the Contest for responding to the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Under the cover of thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately into civilian populations, Hamas murdered and kidnapped innocent men, women, and children.”

Despite not being a part of the continent, Israel made its debut in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973 as the first non-European country granted permission to participate in the event.

The European Broadcasting Union have previously referred to themselves as “an apolitical member organisation” who are “committed to upholding the values of public service,” however, they did ban Russia from competing in 2022 and Belarus the year prior. In 2009, Georgia withdrew from the contest after their entry ‘We Don’t Wanna Put In’ was rejected due to its reference to the Russian president.

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