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Finnish Music Community Challenges Israel’s Place in 2024 Eurovision Song Contest Amid Hamas War

today01/11/2024

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Israel’s participation in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest has been challenged in a petition signed by more than 1,400 members of the Finnish music community calling for a band due to what signatories labelled as the nation’s “war crimes” in the midst of the now-four-month old war against Hamas militants.

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According to The Guardian, the Finnish musicians have joined an earlier effort by Icelandic artists to ban Israel from this year’s competition, slated to be held in the Swedish city of Malmö in May. “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,” read a petition reportedly signed by the Finnish artists, musicians and music industry professionals that also suggested the Finnish Broadcasting Company should boycott the competition and refuse to send a Finnish delegation if the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) — which runs Eurovision — doesn’t weigh in to take action.

Among the artists signing the Finnish petition were Olavi Uusivirta, Paleface and Axel Ehnström, who represented Finland at the 2011 Eurovision as Paradise Oskar. The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists had previously suggested that its members not participate in the show unless Israel is banned.

The effort is similar to the one made in 2022 following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine; Russia was subsequently banned from that year’s contest, which was won by the Ukrainian rap/folk group Kalush Orchestra. At press time a spokesperson for Eurovision 2024 had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment.

Israel launched an assault on Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank following a surprise Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel in which more than 1,200 mostly civilian Israeli men, women and children were murdered and sexually assaulted and more than 240 people were taken hostage.

To date, the Israeli military’s response has reportedly killed more than 23,000 people in Gaza — the majority of whom the territory’s health ministry has said were women and children — in a war that Israel’s prime minister has said will not end until it has eliminated the threat from the militant group. On Thursday (Jan. 11), the UN international court of justice in the Hague heard opening arguments in a case accusing Israel of operating with “genocidal intent” in Gaza.

According to the Guardian, the EBU released a statement in December saying Eurovision “is a contest for broadcasters – not for governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster [Ken] has been participating in the contest for 50 years.” At the time, the EBU said Kan “complies with all competition rules” and would be allowed to participate in this year’s event.

According to the BBC, local Finnish broadcaster YLE had previously sought to draw a distinction between the Russian war of aggression and Israel’s response to the Hamas attack, with YLE rep Ville Vilén recently saying that “As gruesome as it is, [Israel-Hamas] is not a war of inter-state aggression like between Russia and Ukraine.” The Finnish musician who began the petition, reportedly told local paper Hufvudstadsbladet that Israel “violates human rights” and that “we don’t think it’s okay for the country to be part of the Song Contest to polish its image.”

Israel’s place in the competition was also questioned by this year’s UK delegate, Years and Years’ Olly Alexander, who was criticized last month for signing a statement accusing Israel of genocide and referring to it as an “apartheid state.”

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