Israel faces boycott calls at Eurovision over Gaza war

Israel faces boycott calls at Eurovision over Gaza war
The coalition of musicians wrote that Israel should be denied participation “on the same grounds as Russia in the last competition.”
3 min read
21 December, 2023
Iceland’s demand for boycotting Israel is not the first time Israel’s involvement has caused controversy [GETTY]

A group of Icelandic musicians have called for Israel to be blocked from performing at next year’s Eurovision Song Contest over its indiscriminate bombing campaign on Gaza which has killed thousands of civilians.

The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT) has urged the country’s national broadcaster RÚV to not air the 2024 event – which sees international artists and bands compete in grand finals – unless Israel is barred from taking part.

In a letter to RÚV, the coalition of musicians wrote that Israel should be denied participation “on the same grounds as Russia in the last competition".

“It is our collective duty to take a stand against war and the murder of innocent civilians, including children.

“We always have a choice not to associate our names with such actions, whether we are individuals or state institutions.”

Israel’s ten-week bombing campaign of Gaza has sparked a humanitarian catastrophe for 2.3 million Palestinians with aid agencies warning of disease, starvation, and the collapse of health services. At least 20,000 Palestinians have been killed.

In response to Iceland's boycott calls, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) responsible for hosting the contest said that the event “remains a non-political event that unites audiences worldwide through music”.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a competition for public service broadcasters from across Europe and the Middle East. It is a competition for broadcasters – not governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has participated in the contest for 50 years.”

However, in an unusual move last year, the EBU blocked Russia from participating in the event after a campaign demanded their removal in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The EBU stated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clashed with the show’s values and that having a Russian entry would ‘bring the competition into disrepute’.

Ukraine went on to win the event, which took place in the British city of Liverpool.

Live Story

Britain's Eurovision entrant

Britain’s entrant at next year’s contest had signed a letter calling Israel an "apartheid regime" and criticising "Zionist propaganda".

Olly Alexander, who was announced as the UK entrant by the national broadcaster, the BBC, last week, endorsed a statement by an LGBT charity that also accused the country of genocide, according to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph said that the BBC does not plan to take any action against Alexander as he had signed the letter before he was unveiled as the UK’s act.

The statement signed by Alexander was co-ordinated by Voices4 London, an LGBT “direct action” pressure group. It was published on Oct 20 amid the ongoing Israeli onslaught on Gaza.

Next year’s Eurovision finals will take place in Sweden in May and see musicians and bands from European countries and beyond battling it out to be crowned winner.

The Eurovision show features artists chosen by EBU member broadcasters which also includes countries from beyond Europe, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, and Australia.

Calls for boycotting Israel were not the first time Israel’s involvement has caused controversy.

In 2019, there was the possibility of the show being held in Jerusalem which sparked widespread outrage over Israel’s occupation of Palestine from campaigners and musicians in Australia, Sweden, and Iceland.