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About Eurovision's Elephant in the Room


Written by Wolfe Ta’amai (them/use name) | @taaaaaamai | Contributing Writer

I cannot say I am surprised at the decision from the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) to let Israel participate in this year’s Eurovision. I must, however, convey deep disappointment.

Anyone who knows me personally knows my relationship with Eurovision. Growing up in sports country while never being interested in it wasn't easy; I never had any strong, consistent interests I could follow each year. 

And so, after discovering Eurovision in 2019, won for the Netherlands by a starry-eyed Duncan Laurence, I was enthralled. 

From there, getting to follow the leadup to each year’s contest was an engaging affair. The revealing of each entry. The ebb & flow of betting odds. Getting to discover all sorts of music you never would have expected to encounter. It was the sum of these that drew me in. Aside, across both the sonic and visual planes, much of the art that has had a shot on a Eurovision stage, or any of the national selections prior to the main contest, has proven a great inspiration for me as a fledgling creative. And so, it truly is shameful that the desire for revenue over celebration of art has tainted this year’s contest.

It’s safe to say Israel's participation was always the elephant in the room. 

Upon reading into the occupation of Palestine, every piece of news regarding their participation left a persistent bitter taste in my mouth. The taste, a stinging irony of sending queer acts as representatives to try justify their place as some democratic haven in the Middle East, when not only is anti-LGBT sentiment rampant there, but gay marriage is still outlawed. Their 2023 entry masqueraded itself as a feminist anthem; however, beyond the surface level interpretation of the lyrics, it acted more as a defence of the Zionist worldview. The lyrics referring to “if you’re gonna do it, don’t do it” and “history caught in a loop” were evidently written more from the viewpoint of nullifying foreign criticism, and the justification of their actions in occupied Palestine respectively. And after multiple revisions, the 2024 Israeli entry, originally titled “October Rain” will continue this trend. It takes very little comparison between the lyrics of “October Rain” and the approved submission, entitled “Hurricane” to see the latter for what it is; a barely restructured composition, with much of the propagandist messaging still clearly attached. There is an unwavering lump in my throat that no display of art, music or unity could overcome, as such an inclusion is entirely dismissive of a national broadcaster that has consistently proven itself to be complacent in the erasure of an entire people.

An erasure evident with the story of Palestinian artist Bashar Murad.

Murad was announced as one of the shortlisted artists to represent Iceland at the 2024 contest. His entry “Wild West” was not only hotly tipped to win the national final, but also provide Iceland with a strong result, even propelling them to the top of the winning odds even before the national final. This was, however, never to be; despite making the top 2 of the selection, Murad was narrowly beaten by Hera Björk, losing out on the Eurovision ticket. The result came with allegations of irregularities within the voting, and news of an Israeli-led campaign to vote for Hera Björk to prevent Murad from winning emerged.

The parties both complacent & guilty in clear-cut genocide get to parade around a contest so strongly associated with peace & art.

 I can’t say that will ever sit right with me. And so, it is for that reason that despite my initial high expectations for the contest, and the incredibly diverse lineup, I cannot see myself watching the Eurovision Song Contest this year, especially one hosted in socially progressive Sweden, where I have staunch roots myself. Those in charge have prioritised the profitability of the contest over its morals and guiding sentiments, even if that means shamelessly letting blatant propaganda grace the world stage.

There is no good way to finish this piece, other than to reiterate that I am deeply disappointed with the EBU’s stance. Let it, too, be known that my critiques of Israel and the Zionist movement are not reflective of my views on the entire Jewish population, both by ethnicity and religion, and in doing so I would also like to add that many Jewish folk oppose the actions of Israel. Even if it sounds wishful given our current predicament, I believe that, as a collective, we can still use grassroots power to change that which is not right in this world, whilst condemning the powers that latch onto our voices to bring forth harm rather than progressive change. And one of those steps is to ban Israel and the Zionist entity from partaking in Eurovision.



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