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Eurovision Competition Rife with Antisemitism from Protestors and Performers

Thousands of people protested in Malmo on Saturday against Israel‘s participation in Eurovision Song Contest, with the Israeli military campaign in Gaza casting a shadow over the final of the glitzy contest.

Eurovision organizers, who always bill the annual event as non-political, have resisted calls to exclude Israel, but requested that the lyrics of its entry be changed to remove what organizers called references to the deadly Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that triggered the war.

A large crowd of protesters gathered on the central square of the Swedish host city before marching towards the contest venue, waving Palestinian flags and shouting “Eurovision united by genocide” – a twist on the contest’s official slogan “United by music”.

“It’s important to show, like, we are going to stand on the right side for everyone. This could be any other country and we would still be standing here because this is about children, men and women who have been occupied for so many years,” said one protester on Saturday, Maryam, who gave only her first name.

Police estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 people joined the demonstration.

The final, the culmination of the festival of catchy songs, gaudy costumes and tongue-in-cheek kitsch, kicks off at 1900 GMT.

In Malmo, French singer Slimane halted his rehearsal act on Saturday to say it had been a childhood dream of his to sing for peace.

“We need to be united by music,” Slimane said, referring to the official Eurovision slogan, followed by cheering from the crowd in the auditorium.

More than 10,000 anti-Israel campaigners, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, staged a non-violent protest ahead of the semi-final on Thursday.

A smaller group of pro-Israel supporters, including members of Malmo’s Jewish community, also staged a peaceful demonstration on Thursday, defending Israeli solo artist Eden Golan, 20, and her right to take part in the contest.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have complained of double standards as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) that organizes the contest banned Russia from Eurovision in 2022 following its invasion of Ukraine.

Some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 people taken hostage in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country will not stop the war until Hamas is eliminated.


In another Eurovision controversy this year, Dutch contestant Joost Klein was expelled on Saturday from the competition final after a complaint by a member of the production crew, the EBU said.

“While the legal process takes its course, it would not be appropriate for him (Joost) to continue in the Contest,” the EBU said in a statement.

A representative for Klein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS, Klein was filmed despite clearly made agreements, just after getting off stage after his performance at Thursday’s semi final.

“This wasn’t respected,” AVROTROS said in a post on social media platform X, adding “This led to a threatening movement from Joost towards the camera.”

Klein did not touch the camerawoman, according to AVROTROS, who said it found the artist’s penalty “very heavy and disproportionate.”

A Dutch fan, Frank Zwarthoed, said, “We are very, very, very disappointed… And it’s not good for the for the joy, we have in all the Dutch fans here that are present.”

Dutch viewers will still be allowed to vote for other contestants and the Dutch jury result will still be included in the final, the EBU has said.

Bookmakers have Croatia’s Baby Lasagna, real name Marko Purišić, 28, with “Rim Tim Tagi Dim,” as front-runner to win the contest, followed by Israel‘s Golan, with her song “Hurricane.”

Some booing was heard from the crowd before, during and after Golan’s performance in the semi-finals on Thursday, but there was also applause and Israeli flags being waved, according to a Reuters journalist in the auditorium.