May 25, 2024

Israel will be allowed to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 after changing the lyrics to its song, organisers have confirmed.

Eden Golan will represent the country at the contest in Sweden this May.

Her original song, October Rain, was thought to reference the Hamas attacks of 7 October and had been barred for breaking rules on political neutrality.

Israel’s public broadcaster agreed to amend the song, now titled Hurricane, and will unveil it this weekend.

In a statement, The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – which organises the contest – said earlier: “The EBU can confirm that the official submission from its Israeli Member Kan has been deemed eligible to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

“The Contest’s Reference Group, its governing board, made the decision to accept the song ‘Hurricane’ for the upcoming competition after careful scrutiny of the lyrics.

“It was agreed that ‘Hurricane’ met the necessary criteria for participation in accordance with the rules of the competition.”

Israeli broadcaster Kan had previously pledged not to alter the lyrics, but the country’s President Isaac Herzog later called for “necessary adjustments” to ensure Israel can take part in the contest.

The original lyrics of October Rain – written in English – were published on Kan’s website last month.

They included the lines “They were all good children, every one of them” and “Who told you boys don’t cry/ Hours and hours/ And flowers/ Life is not a game for the cowards.”

On Wednesday, Belgium’s French-speaking Culture Minister Benedicte Linard called for Israel to be banned from Eurovision as long as the war in Gaza continues.

“Just like Russia has been excluded from competitions and Eurovision following its invasion of Ukraine, Israel should be excluded until it puts an end to its flagrant violations of international law, which are causing thousands of victims, especially children,” she wrote on X.

Israel insists that its ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza is being carried out in line with international law. Its military has repeatedly said that it goes out of its way to try to avoid harming civilians.

Ms Linard also told parliament on Wednesday that she would ask public broadcaster RTBF, which is organising Belgium’s entry to Eurovision, to voice the concerns to the EBU.

Her Flemish counterpart, Benjamin Dalle, said an Israeli suspension would be appropriate while so many Palestinian civilians were suffering, according to a report by Flemish broadcaster VRT.

Musicians in several countries have called for Israel to be suspended from the contest.

In December, Iceland’s Association of Composers and Lyricists published a statement saying Israel’s military action in Gaza made its participation incompatible with an event “characterised by joy and optimism”.

In Finland, a petition signed by more than 1,400 music industry professionals accused their national broadcaster Yle of double standards, saying it was among the first to demand the ban on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The EBU soon after banned Russia from participating.

Before he was selected to represent the UK, Olly Alexander also endorsed a statement accusing Israel of genocide.

An Israeli official later told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper the arguments were “absurd” and accused Alexander and his fellow signatories of “anti-Israel bias”.

Israel has won the Eurovision Song Contest four times before.

Its military launched an air and ground campaign in Gaza after Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

More than 30,800 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

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