Music

Swedish Artists Sign Open Letter Calling for Israel’s Exclusion From 2024 Eurovision Song Contest

A group of artists in Sweden, this year’s Eurovision host country, are requesting that Israel be barred from participating in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest over the nation’s “brutal” war in Gaza. In an open letter signed by more than 1,000 Swedish musicians published in the Swedish paper Aftonbladet, the artists decried the “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza in the wake of Israel’s punishing response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel that saw militants killing more than 1,200 Israelis — mostly civilians — and taking more than 250 hostages.

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“We who sign this are 1,000 artists who believe in music as a unifying force. The Eurovision song contest began as a peace project with the ambition to unite countries and citizens through music,” read the letter. “Allowing Israel’s participation undermines not only the spirit of the competition but the entire public service mission. It also sends the signal that governments can commit war crimes without consequences. Therefore, we appeal to the EBU: Exclude Israel from the Eurovision song contest 2024.”

Among the signers of the letter published on Monday (Jan. 29) are such acts as Robyn, Fever Ray and First Aid Kit and Malena Ernman, the opera singing mother of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, as well as hundreds of other dancers, artists, DJs and choreographers. The letter notes that the now 115-day-old war has reportedly led to the deaths of more than 25,000 Palestinians — including 10,000 children — leading to the destruction of “civilian infrastructure, caused inhumane living conditions and forced 85 percent of the population to flee.”

It noted that the International Court of Justice in the Hague recently took up the case of alleged genocide brought by South Africa, ruling that Israel must act to prevent and punish any public incitements to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, to preserve evidence related to any allegations of genocide in the territory, as well as improve humanitarian conditions for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

“The fact that countries that place themselves above humanitarian law are welcomed to participate in international cultural events trivialises violations of international law and makes the suffering of the victims invisible,” the Swedish letter stated. The missive joins earlier similar requests to exclude Israel from more than 1,400 artists in Finland and Iceland. This year’s Eurovision contest is slated to take place in Malmö from May 7-11.

The earlier Finnish note asked the Finnish Broadcasting Company to 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. The various efforts are similar to ones made in 2022 following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine; Russia was subsequently banned from that year’s contest after organizers said inclusion would “bring the competition into disrepute.” That year’s edition 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 on the Swedish letter.

“We believe that by allowing Israel’s participation, the EBU is exhibiting a remarkable double standard that undermines the organization’s credibility,” read the Swedish letter.

According to The Guardian, the EBU previously announced that Israel would not be excluded from this year’s contest, while emphasizing that the wildly popular, often outrageous musical contest is apolitical and that it is a battle between public service broadcasters, not states. The paper also reported that Iceland’s national broadcaster, RÚV, said its decision on whether to boycott or participate in Eurovision will be made in mid-March by the winner of its song competition, Söngvakeppnin.

Israel, which has been participating in Eurovision since 1973, has won the competition four times, including in 1978 (Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi”), 1979 (Milk and Honey, “Hallelujah”), 1998 (Dana International, “Diva”) and 2018 (Netta Barzilai, “Toy”). A recent article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that despite its track record of wins, Israel is no longer the oddmakers’ favorite to win Eurovision this year amid the growing calls for a boycott over the Gaza war; the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation and Keshet are in the process of choosing this year’s Eurovision act via the competition show HaKokhav HaBa (Rising Star).

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