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Sunak condemns ‘outrageous’ Eurovision protests against Israel

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Published Time: 11.05.2024 - 12:40:40 Modified Time: 11.05.2024 - 12:40:40

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Malmo, Sweden, to demonstrate against Israel’s inclusion in event Johan Nilsson/TT/Reuters Rishi Sunak condemned pro-Palestine protests at the Eurovision Song Contest as “outrageous”

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Malmo, Sweden, to demonstrate against Israel’s inclusion in event

: Johan Nilsson/TT/Reuters

Rishi Sunak condemned pro-Palestine protests at the Eurovision Song Contest as “outrageous”.

Thousands of pro-Palestine protesters are preparing to demonstrate against Israel’s inclusion in the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden on Saturday once again amid the continuing war in Gaza.

Eden Golan, the 20-year-old Israeli entrant, has been subject to days of controversy as the heightened tensions over her inclusion have escalated and spilled onto the streets of Eurovision’s 2024 host city, Malmo.

There have been calls from campaigners worldwide, including within the UK, for fans to boycott the annual singing competition this year, as Golan reached Saturday’s final.

: Tobias Schwarz/AFP

But Mr Sunak has condemned the protests against Israel’s participation as “wrong” and the boycott calls as “unfair”.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said that he would urge those calling for a boycott to consider “the Israelis and also Jewish people around the world who love Eurovision and their feelings” upon seeing Thursday’s demonstrations.

Asked for Mr Sunak’s views on the Eurovision protests, the No10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister thinks that these protests are wrong and some of the scenes we’ve seen have been outrageous.

“We share the deep concern over the humanitarian crisis of Gaza, and we raise this regularly.

“When it comes to this debate around Eurovision and these protests we are incredibly mindful of the Israelis and also Jewish people around the world who love Eurovision and their feelings seeing this in the aftermath of what was atrocious terror attack and while hostages are still being held by Hamas.

“He would urge people to consider this when repeating these unfair calls for a boycott,” she added.

Golan has had her security personally overseen by the head of Israel’s security agency, as Malmo was besieged by more than 10,000 pro-Palestine protesters demanding her removal from the contest.

Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet agency, has flown to Sweden to supervise the security arrangements for Golan and the rest of the Israeli delegation. 

It comes as the frustration between the event’s organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and the contestants over the issue has reached a tipping point.

Ireland’s act, non-binary singer Bambie Thug broke down in tears speaking to journalists on Friday as the singer revealed that they had cried with their team when Israel qualified for the grand final.

“It’s overshadowed everything,” Thug, whose real name is Bambie Ray Robinson, said of Israel’s inclusion while wearing a symbolic pro-Palestine Keffiyeh around their neck.

“It goes against everything that Eurovision is meant to be,” they added, “And it’s a big community, together, and their contestant was never allowed to even meet usGod forbid we have some conversation and minds might be changed.

“So it’s definitely putting a cloud above it.”

Their comments followed the former Finland Eurovision competitor insisting he does not “endorse” Israel’s involvement in this year’s competition after a video emerged of him dancing with Golan.

Finnish singer Jere Mikael Pöyhönen, known professionally as Käärijä, was filmed performing a friendly routine with the Israeli singer, but following apparent backlash, he said: “I would like to clarify and emphasise that the video is not a political statement or an endorsement of any kind.” 

The nine-second video shows the pair performing the Finnish artist’s “Cha Cha Cha” dance routine from last year’s contest before laughing and high-fiving in front of the camera.

Backstage controversy

Meanwhile, the Dutch entrant Joost Klein was revealed to be under investigation by the EBU after an undisclosed incident meant that he could not perform in Friday’s dress rehearsal.

It is unclear what took place but he was not able to rehearse his song Europapa after his equipment was pulled off the stage at the last minute and Israel’s entrant took to the stage to rehearse instead.

The EBU said: “We are currently investigating an incident that was reported to us involving the Dutch artist. He will not be rehearsing until further notice.”

Speaking about the incident, which is understood to have happened backstage during the rehearsals, Thug said: “It was very intense, I was actually having a nap when all of this went down, so I woke up to the atmosphere change.

“But it’s an incredibly intense atmosphere and I don’t think it’s sitting well with any of the contestants to be honest.”

It followed a testy interjection from Klein during Golan’s questions at the press conference that immediately followed the semifinals on Thursday, in which she was asked whether her participation in the contest was posing a “risk and danger” for other participants.

After being told by event organisers that she did not have to answer the question, Klein loudly interjected asking: “Why not?”

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