Israel qualifies for Eurovision final after day of protests

Israel has qualified for the 2024 Eurovision final following days of protests in support of Gaza.

READ MORE: Inside the raging debate to watch Eurovision 2024: “This feels bigger than the contest”

Eden Golan, Israel’s entrant in the songwriting competition, qualified for the final following a public vote. Her win into the final came shortly after thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in the streets of Malmö, Sweden, where the contest is being held, to show their support for Gaza.

The singer was booed during dress rehearsals and was booed again, this time with a mix of cheering as well, during the semi-finals on Thursday (May 9). Golan went on to share that she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after the show (per BBC).

BREAKING: Wow.

Happening now in Malmo, Sweden.

HUGE pro-Palestine protest opposing Israel’s participation in Eurovision.

pic.twitter.com/D6ZrOsswwP

— sarah (@sahouraxo) May 9, 2024

“It is truly such an honour to be here on stage, representing [Israel] with pride,” she continued. “I’m so grateful for everyone who voted and took part in supporting us, and me.”

Taking to her personal Instagram account, the singer shared a photo of herself looking at the Eurovision stage with a caption that read: “I’m still trying to figure out the right words, but from the bottom of my heart thank you thank you thank you. thank you for voting for hurricane and for believing in us. I’m going to continue to show up and perform and remind everyone that we are here to stay! see you on Saturday.”

Other countries to advance to the 2024 Eurovision final include Latvia, Austria, The Netherlands, Norway, Greece, Estonia, Switzerland, Georgia and Armenia. The six countries eliminated were Malta, Albania, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark and San Marino.

This year’s contest has been dogged with controversy following the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and its decision to allow Israel to compete amongst the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The move has been criticised as “cultural cover and endorsement for the catastrophic violence that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians” by organisations such as Queers for Palestine, who wrote an open letter to UK entry Olly Alexander to boycott the contest this year.

Recently, the European Broadcasting Union put out a statement to warn against the “abuse and harassment” artists were facing for their participation.

The Deputy Director of the EBU wrote that whilst the EBU “strongly” supports “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.”

There has been significant protests about this year’s Eurovision due to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. Over 1,000 Swedish artists called for Israel to be banned this year, such as RobynFever Ray, and First Aid Kit, whilst over 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals have signed a petition to ban the country from taking part of the contest as well.

Artists such as Olly Alexander have faced calls to boycott the event as well; the singer initially signed a statement last December calling Israel an “apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide.

However, after receiving an open letter from numerous queer artists and individuals to boycott Eurovision last March, a number of Eurovision performers – including Ireland’s Bambie Thug, Norway’s Gåte, Portugal’s Iolanda and Alexander himself – responded to the letter saying they “firmly believe in the unifying power of music”, with Alexander later confirming he would not be boycotting Eurovision.

Bambie Thug addressed the situation in a recent interview with NME, saying: “It’s a lot when I know that my heart is in the right place and when it’s not my decision. I have had to take a break from social media because it is weighing on me. A lot of stuff is completely nasty and uncalled for.

“As artists, we’re easy targets, but at the end of the day, I have said that I don’t think they made the right decision,” they continued. “I still stand by that. But people should be coming for the EBU and for the broadcasters, not us as artists. I stand by my statement and I am completely for Palestine, and I think it’s ridiculous that it’s gone on for so long. I think the world is quite removed from its heart and its consciousness right now.”

When asked if they would support RTÉ hypothetically choosing to boycott Eurovision, they replied: “It’s their decision. I’m working for them, I would have no choice.”

Asked how else they intended to show their support to the people of Palestine on the night, Robinson replied: “Well, I can’t say anything.”

Earlier this week (May 7), the EBU doubled down on their decision not to boycott Israel over the war in Gaza, saying that to exclude Israeli broadcaster Kan from the competition would have been a “political decision”.

Speaking on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News, Jean Philip De Tender, the deputy director general of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said: “I fully agree it is a family event and the great thing about this music competition is that it’s all about values. It’s about uniting onstage all of these young talents, these participants, and they do great. It’s about diversity and inclusion.

“But there are competition rules and you need to follow the competition rules and take decisions based on these competition rules. If you were to exclude Kan outside of these competition rules, that would have been a political decision, as such, which we cannot take.”

It comes after Eurovision organisers also recently confirmed that that they reserve the right to remove Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols during the contest.

The first wave of semi-final performances took place last night (May 7) in Sweden, and saw Bambie Thug become Ireland’s first finalist in the Eurovision Song Contest since 2018. That being said, the artist was forced to change the pro-Palestine message on their dress as it “contravened contest rules that are designed to protect the non-political nature of the event”.

Speaking of the change, Bambie Thug said: “It was very important for me because I’m pro-justice and pro-peace. Unfortunately, I had to change those messages today to ‘crown the witch’ only (which was an) order from the EBU.”

Elsewhere at the first semi-final on Tuesday (May 7), Croatia and Finland both made it through into the final, alongside delegates from Luxembourg, Serbia, Ukraine, Portugal, Lithuania, Finland and Cyprus.

In other news, Pet Shop Boys have responded to comparisons of ‘It’s A Sin’ to Olly Alexander’s Eurovision entry ‘Dizzy’.

The post Israel qualifies for Eurovision final after day of protests appeared first on NME.

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