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Eurovision Accused of Double Standards for Allowing Israel To Participate Despite Its War on Gaza

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
27th February 2024
Eurovision Accused of Double Standards for Allowing Israel To Participate Despite Its War on Gaza
The European Broadcasting Union won't exclude Israel (Getty)

On Wednesday, February 21, the Israel Broadcasting Authority 'Kan' announced that its song 'October Rain,' submitted to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) for approval, was not accepted by the organizing institution. The decision on the song's participation in the 2024 Eurovision has not been finalized.

Is Israel’s Song “October Rain” Out of Eurovision?

In early February, Israel selected Eden Golani as its representative, expressing the desire to participate with a song "that reflects the current situation in the country." This announcement faced criticism due to the Eurovision contest's prohibition on political messages in participating song lyrics.

On Wednesday, "Kan" reported on its website that the song "October Rain" was effectively rejected by the Broadcasting Union committee responsible for verifying lyrics' conformity.

The potential exclusion of Israel's 'October Rain' song from the Eurovision 2024 competition
The potential exclusion of Israel's 'October Rain' song from the Eurovision 2024 competition

According to the Israel Hayom website, the song’s lyrics refer to the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, which was carried out by the Palestinian resistance, on October 7, 2023.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority claims to be "in dialogue with the European Broadcasting Union" on the matter but asserts that it "has no intention of replacing the song." In the event of a dispute, Israel may be unable to participate in the contest scheduled for May in Malmö, Sweden.

“The European Broadcasting Union’s intention to disqualify the Israeli song from the Eurovision contest is scandalous,” the Israeli Culture minister, Miki Zohar, said in a post on X. “It is a moving song which expresses the feelings of the people and the country today, and not a political song,” he added.

Miki Zohar

For their part, the contest’s organizers said that the European Broadcasting Union is currently reviewing the song’s lyrics, which is a confidential process between the Broadcasting Union and the Commission until a final decision is made.

“If the song is considered unacceptable for any reason, an opportunity will be given to present a new song or new lyrics,” the organizers added in a statement.

Eurovision Management Accused of Double Standards

Controversy continues around Israel’s participation in the contest, especially since the organizers admitted it despite criticism calling for its exclusion. This criticism stems from Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of over 29,000 Palestinians and injuries to around 70,000 others.

In January, Icelandic Public Television announced that the country's participation in Eurovision 2024 is uncertain as long as Israel has not been excluded for the same reasons Russia was excluded in 2022.

However, the European Broadcasting Union stated that it conducted a review and decided that Israel can compete in the contest.

Eurovision Management Accused of Double Standards

The organizers emphasized that the European song contest is a musical, non-political event and a competition between public service broadcasters, all of which are members of the European Broadcasting Union.

The European Broadcasting Union, founded in 1950 and based in Geneva, is considered the biggest media coalition of public broadcasters globally, including 112 member organizations in 56 countries.

“Our governing bodies have reviewed the list of participants for the 2024 contest and agreed that the Israeli public broadcaster Kan has met all the rules of this year’s competition and can participate, as it has done for the past 50 years,” said Noel Curran, Director General of the European Broadcasting Union, in a statement.

However, critics of the contest argue that organizers decided to exclude Russia following its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. At the time, the EBU considered that "admitting a Russian participation at that year’s contest would bring disrepute to the competition." Curran, however, asserts that it is not the Union’s prerogative to compare wars. "We understand the fears and well-established opinions around the current conflict in the Middle East," he said, adding that the Eurovision contest "is not a competition between governments."

“In the case of Russia, the membership of the Russian broadcasting bodies was itself suspended from the European Radio Union because of their continued violations of membership obligations and violations of public service values,” he added.

“The relationship between Kan and the Israeli government is fundamentally different from the relationship that exists between these Russian members and the state, as the Israeli government has in recent years threatened to shut down the broadcasting body,” he further explained.

His statement concluded that “the European Broadcasting Union is in alliance with the other international organizations, including sports unions and other international bodies, which likewise maintained its inclusive stance towards Israeli participants in major competitions at this time.”

It is worth mentioning that many countries have previously modified titles or contents of competing songs in accordance with the rules put in place by the organizers, which forbid lyrics that mention commercial brands or political messages.

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