Eurovision confirms Israel can compete

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Israel can compete in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, organisers confirmed on Thursday, again rejecting calls for it to be excluded over the Gaza war like Russia was after invading Ukraine.

On Wednesday, a group of 400 celebrities including British actress Helen Mirren, British singer Boy George and former Kiss frontman Gene Simmons published an open letter supporting Eurovision’s decision to maintain Israel’s participation.

The letter was issued in response to petitions calling for Israel to be kicked out of the world’s biggest live music event, which is being held in Malmo, Sweden, in May.

Approached by AFP, the European Broadcasting Union said it had conducted a review and decided late last year that Israel could participate in the contest.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political music event and a competition between public service broadcasters who are members of the EBU. It is not a contest between governments,” EBU director general Noel Curran said, reiterating a statement made in January.

After the Oct. 7  attacks, Israel launched a relentless military offensive that has killed at least 28,600 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

 Russia situation ‘fundamentally different’ 

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. The following day, the EBU said that including a Russian entry in that year’s contest “would bring the competition into disrepute”.

The decision was “based on the rules of the event and the values of the EBU”, it said.

Curran said it was not the EBU’s place to make comparisons between wars, and that in the case of Russia, it was the Russian broadcasters themselves who were suspended from the EBU “due to their persistent breaches of membership obligations and the violation of public service values”.

In their open letter, the artists led by Mirren said they had been “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”.

“We believe that unifying events such as singing competitions are crucial to help bridge our cultural divides and unite people of all backgrounds through their shared love of music,” said the letter, which makes no mention of the massive civilian casualties in Gaza.

Founded in 1950, the Geneva-based EBU is the world’s biggest public service media alliance. It has 112 member organisations in 56 countries.

Curran said the EBU was acting in line with other international organisations, such as sports federations, which have kept Israel in their competitions.

 

Gaza violence,

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