Thousands of demonstrators, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, marched through the streets of Malmo, Sweden yesterday to protest Israel’s participation in Eurovision, an AFP journalist observed.
This year’s Eurovision song contest opened in the southern city of Malmo on Tuesday, with the grand finale tomorrow, but the war in Gaza is looming over the festivities.
“I am a Eurovision fan and it breaks my heart but I’m boycotting. I can’t have fun knowing that Israel is there participating when all those kids are dying. I think it’s just wrong,” 30-year-old protester Hilda, who did not want to provide her surname, told AFP.
The war in Gaza was sparked by the events of October 7 in Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Israel in response vowed to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive that has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 128 of them remain in Gaza, including 36 who officials say are dead.
In 2022, Russia’s state broadcaster was excluded from the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees Eurovision, in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
“I feel like if they can remove Russia why can they not do it to Israel?” 29-year-old Margo Mustafa said. “The people are here for Eurovision trying to celebrate. There’s nothing to celebrate. It’s an ongoing war.”
More than 5,000 people gathered yesterday afternoon in Malmo’s main square, according to an AFP estimate.
Alongside signs that read: “Liberate Palestine”, banners that said “EUR legitimises genocide” and “colonialism cannot be washed in pink” could be read in the crowd.
Israel’s entry, Hurricane by singer Eden Golan, competed in the semi-final.
It has already been partially re-written and given a new title after Eurovision organisers deemed the original version to be too political.
Protester Cecilia Brudell told AFP: “At six and nine, my children are now at an age where they want to watch Eurovision but this year we are completely boycotting it.”
Since the beginning of the year, several petitions have demanded Israel’s exclusion from the 68th edition of the annual music competition.
At the end of March, contestants from nine countries, including Swiss favourite Nemo, called for a lasting ceasefire.