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Finland Demands Eurovision Ban Israel From 2024 Contest Due To 'War Crimes' In Gaza

Finland have protested Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest’s 68th competition scheduled for later this year in May, 2024. This follows Israel’s heavy bombardment of Gaza over recent months which has cost thousands of Palestinian lives. There is no current indication that Israel will be excluded from Eurovision 2024.    

Over 1,400 music artists, performers, and industry professionals from Finland have signed a petition urging Eurovision to ban Israel from this year’s contest. Those who have signed include Olavi Uusivirta, Paleface and Finland’s Eurovision entrant from 2011, Axel Ehnström.

The Finnish-led petition states “it is not in accordance with our values that a country that commits war crimes and continues a military occupation is given a public stage to polish its image in the name of music”. Finland’s broadcasting company, Yle,  has been urged to withdraw their Finnish entrant from the competition if Israel is not prohibited from taking part.

Artists in Finland have accused Yle of being insincere after the broadcaster was one of the first to demand Russia were banned from partaking in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago, Yle representative, Ville Vilén, said their actions were “contrary to all the values that Yle and other European broadcasters represent”.

The petition’s co-signers want the same response from the broadcaster now, but last month, Vilén argued the situation with Israel and Gaza is “not quite the same” and although “gruesome”, does not equate to the “war of inter-state aggression” between Russia and Ukraine. Yle have said they are “monitoring the position of the European Broadcasting Union” who organise the event, and plan to meet with the petition’s authors.

In a statement from the European Broadcasting Union last month, it was said that Eurovision was “for broadcasters, not for governments” and that Israel had complied with “all competition rules” necessary for participation.

In their plea, Finland’s artists accuse Eurovision’s other competing nations of “giving their support to Israel’s policies” with their silence. However, Iceland made similar observations last month when the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists told members not to participate in Eurovision unless Israel were barred.

After the terrorist organisation, Hamas, invaded southern Israel last year (October 7, 2023) killing 1,200 people and taking another 200 hostage, Israel retaliated with heavy military bombardment across the Gaza Strip. Israel have carried out a series of air strikes and launched a ground invasion into Gaza in an attempt to destroy the “military and governing capabilities” of Hamas and free Israeli hostages.

Israel’s retribution has prevented food, water, medical supplies, and other vital resources, from entering Gaza and helping the Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire. Approximately 576,600 people in Gaza are now said to be facing “catastrophic hunger and starvation” as a result. Over 23,000 people in Gaza have been killed during Israel’s military campaign. 

After Swedish singer/songwriter Loreen took first place at last year’s contest, Eurovision 2024 will be held in Malmö, Sweden. Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, accused those calling for Israel’s exclusion from Eurovision, as supporters of Hamas.   

The United Kingdom’s 2024 Eurovision entrant, Olly Alexander, has taken a controversial stance on the debate, which has left the BBC facing calls to drop him. In a letter published by the LGBT+ organisation, Voices4London on October 20, titled ‘1,400+ Queer Individuals and Organisations Sign an International Statement of Solidarity with Palestine’, Alexander’s was one of many signatures. The letter described the retaliation as “an escalation of the state of Israel’s apartheid regime” and equated current events with “genocide”. 

After it was announced that Alexander would be representing the UK this year in Malmö, his previous views about Israel have caused a stir. Speaking to The Telegraph, a source from the Conservative Party, accused the BBC of “either a massive oversight or sheer brass neck” for allowing the singer to take part. 

As things currently stand, Israel will be participating in Eurovision 2024, with their entrant due to be selected next month. The Finnish entrant is also yet to be selected.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 will take place in Malmö, Sweden and will begin on May 7 before the final on May 11. 

Edited by: Kaiyah Ellison

Photo credit: Eurovision.tv

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