Eurovision Song Contest: Israel Makes Finals As Protests Continue – Forbes

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Topline

Israeli singer Eden Golan advanced to the final round of the Eurovision song competition and will sing later Saturday, as thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators continue to protest in the event’s host city of Malmo, Sweden, calling for Israel’s exclusion from the competition over the Israel-Hamas war.

Key Facts

Protesters, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, have been gathering in Malmo for days with large crowds gathering Saturday ahead of the finals amid as calls for Israel’s expulsion—and Thunberg was arrested by Swedish police amid a standoff with officers Saturday afternoon, the BBC reported.

Boycotts of the competition began before it even started.

Israeli singer Eden Golan has been thrust into the center of the international controversy surrounding Israel’s war in Gaza, receiving heavy security and reportedly ordered by security to stay in her hotel room when not performing due to safety concerns.

The 20-year-old Golan has been repeatedly booed on stage during dress rehearsals and formal performances, but still earned enough votes after her Thursday semi-final performance to advance into Saturday’s finals.

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Dutch performer Joost Klein was expelled Saturday morning after Swedish police investigated a “complaint made by a female member of the production crew,” and while no charges have been filed, “it would not be appropriate for him to continue in the contest,” according to Eurovision organizer the European Broadcasting Union.

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What Time Is The Eurovision Finals—and Where Is It Streaming?

In the U.S., the Eurovision finals start at 3 p.m. EDT. It’ll stream live on Peacock, and in some areas it will be livestreamed on the Eurovision YouTube channel. A full list of broadcasters for every participating country can be found here.

Section Title

When news broke that Klein’s participation in the contest was under review, it prompted false speculation it may have been somehow related to Golan. Tensions flared at a press conference earlier this week when Golan was asked if she believed her presence at the event posed a safety threat to the other contestants and was told by a moderator she didn’t have to answer the question, prompting Klein to shout, “Why not?” But the EBU said in its statement about Klein’s exit: “contrary to some media reports and social media speculation, this incident did not involve any other performer or delegation member.”

Big Number

20,000. That’s how many protesters Swedish police were expecting in Malmo on Saturday, according to the Times of Israel.

What To Watch For

Croatia is the betting favorite to win the competition, though Israel has risen up the ranks to No. 2, according to Eurovision World, a website that tracks the competition’s betting odds.

Key Background

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been calling for Israel to be excluded from the competition and other boycotts as the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has raged on. In March, after several groups of musicians pressured contestants to boycott the competition, and nine Eurovision artists released a joint statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, but stopped short of pulling out of competing. The European Broadcasting Union has resisted calls to exclude Israel from the event, but did ask Golan to change the lyrics to her original entry song, “Hurricane,” which was inspired by the events of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The song was originally titled “October Rain” and included more specific allusions to the attack, but the contest said it required all songs to be non-political.

Crucial Quote

“Be blessed, and know that when they boo you, we are cheering you on,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video statement to Golan on X earlier this week.

Chief Critic

Climate activist Greta Thunberg accused Israel of “artwashing” its actions in Gaza, alleging the country is using the competition to distract from an alleged “genocide” of Palestinian people.

Further Reading

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