Isaac Herzog

The president of Israel has had his say on the ongoing controversy about the country’s participation in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest

Earlier this week, the Israeli broadcaster KAN said they will withdraw from this year’s competition if the event’s organisers attempt to censor their entry. 

And now, president Isaac Herzog has said that Israel’s voice must be heard from the Eurovision stage. 

“I think it’s important for Israel to appear in Eurovision, and this is also a statement because there are haters who try to drive us off every stage,” he said, as reported by the Times of Israel. “Being smart is not just being right,” he added. 

Eden Golan. CREDIT: ESC Beat

Meanwhile, Israel’s culture minister Miki Zohar has said that the threat to censor the song is “scandalous”. “We all hope that Eurovision will remain a musical and cultural event and not a political arena,” he said. “I call on the European Broadcasting Union to continue to act professionally and neutrally, and not to let politics affect art.” 

Israel have selected the 20-year-old Eden Golan as this year’s entry. 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 lyrics to the song include the line: “They were all good children, each one of them”, and 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.” 

However, KAN has said that it would refuse any request for the lyrics to be changed. 

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Union, signed by over 1,000 Swedish artists including RobynFever Ray, and First Aid Kit – calling for Israel to be withdrawn from competing at the finale in Malmö, Sweden on May 11. 

“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. 

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.” 

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. 

The post Israeli president says it is “important” the country is allowed to enter this year’s Eurovision appeared first on NME.


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