Israel Qualifies for Eurovision Final Amid Gaza War Protests

5


Singer Eden Golan qualifies for Eurovision final amid protests in Sweden over Israel’s war on Gaza.

Israel has qualified for this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest grand finale, defying thousands of demonstrators marching in host country Sweden over the Gaza war.

Singer Eden Golan performed her song “Hurricane” in Thursday’s second semifinal in front of 9,000 spectators at the host city’s Malmo Arena and booked her place in the final thanks to viewers’ votes.

“Well, I feel… I’m so overwhelmed with emotions. It’s truly such an honour to be here, on stage performing and showing our voice, and representing us with pride and making it to the finals is something that’s crazy,” 20-year-old Golan said after securing her place in the final.

Switzerland and the Netherlands, two of the favourites to win Eurovision 2024, also secured spots in Saturday’s grand final.

Israel made its debut in Eurovision in 1973 and has won the contest four times.

This year, Israel’s participation and the choice of song have seen the contest swept up in the wave of pro-Palestinian protests that have brought thousands to the streets of cities in the United States, Europe and beyond.

Golan’s song is an adaptation of an earlier version named October Rain, which she modified after contest organisers deemed it too political because of its apparent allusions to Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7.

As she prepared for her performance, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Golan good luck and said she had “already won” by enduring the protests that he called a “horrible wave of anti-Semitism”.

Protests against Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision

Thousands of pro-Palestine demonstrators, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, have taken to the streets in the Swedish city of Malmo to protest against Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision.

Protesters wearing keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags filled the port city on Thursday, where the second semifinal is scheduled to take place later tonight.

“It’s important to be here,” said Amani Eli-Ali, a Malmo resident of Palestinian heritage. “It’s not OK for Sweden to arrange this Eurovision and have Israel in the contest.”

Calls to bar Israel from the competition have grown amid Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,900 people, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities. Israel launched the assault after Palestinian group Hamas led an attack on Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people, mostly civilians, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

Eurovision has resisted calls to eject Israel but asked the country to modify the lyrics of its original song, October Rain, which appeared to reference the Hamas attack.

Critics have pointed out that Russia was expelled in 2022 following its invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus was excluded the previous year following a crackdown on protesters.

Reuters

Protesters congregated in the city’s town hall before a planned march to a park close to the contest venue.

The Israeli government warned that there was “tangible concern” that Israelis could be attacked, and Lotta Svensson, a police incident commander, told the news outlet Reuters over the weekend that law enforcement was “keeping a bit of an extra eye on Israel” because of high tensions over the war in Gaza.

But police said on Thursday that the protest has been mostly calm. A pro-Israel demonstration was also scheduled for later in the day.

“I’m here today because I see the hypocrisy and double standards around the world,” a Palestinian protester named Amar told Reuters. “We are against what’s happening in Gaza right now. But I also want people to understand that we don’t hate Jews.”

Source: Aljazeera