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Eurovision 2024: Israel's contestant booed on stage as boycott calls continue

Members of the audience could be heard jeering and shouting ‘Free Palestine’ as Eden Golan performed her song 'Hurricane' during dress rehearsal
Singer Eden Golan representing Israel with the song 'Hurricane' performs on stage during the first rehearsal before the second semi-final of the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmo Arena in Sweden on 8 May 2024.
Singer Eden Golan representing Israel with the song 'Hurricane' performs on stage during the first rehearsal before the second semi-final of the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmo Arena in Sweden on 8 May 2024.

The Eurovision Song Contest was mired in further controversy on Wednesday when the Israeli contestant's dress rehearsal performance was met with boos and shouts of "Free Palestine" from the audience.

Eden Golan's performance of "Hurricane'' ahead of the second Eurovision semi-final on Thursday took place as Israel plans its incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah where almost 1.5m displaced Palestinians have fled to.

Israel also faces accusations of war crimes and genocide for its ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip, which has left more than 34,900 Palestinians dead, the vast majority civilians.

"Easily the most booing I've ever heard at #Eurovision but no major disruptions of Israel at the first show with a crowd," journalist Ben Rothenberg posted on X, formerly Twitter.

One person who said they attended the show said several members of the audience left during Eden Golan's performance, and returned for the following contestant.

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"Eurovision ignored public backlash and outrage from other musicians over Israel being allowed to perform at Eurovision while it continues its genocidal slaughter in Gaza," posted another user alongside a clip from the show.

In response, Israel's national broadcaster Kan, which is responsible for choosing the country's submission for the competition, said in a statement: "Eden stood on the stage during the dress rehearsal with pride and gave an incredible performance. They did not silence her and they will not silence us."

Golan also added in a statement to Israeli media that she was receiving love and support.

"I am proud to represent my country, particularly this year," she said after the incident.

While some users argued that singers are not responsible for the actions of their government and that art should not be mixed with politics, others countered that her song submissions and decision to represent Israel during the war are political acts.

"When an artist like her actively chooses to represent her country, and actually records two previous songs that are deemed too political by the EBU [European Broadcasting Union], she is far from being an innocent or detached being from the current political situation," wrote one user on a Reddit discussion board.

Golan's initial song, October Rain, had been rejected by Eurovision organisers who took issue with the apparent reference to the 7 October attacks. After a request by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Kan agreed to change the lyrics despite initially refusing.

"Her choosing to represent Israel with that song is per se a political act," the Reddit user continued, and added that booing was a relatively calm form of protest.

"It's not harassing her outside the event of representing the country and is not putting her in any material harm. It is just a natural form of protest given the situation," they added.

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Another user commented that the disapproving shouts and boos were a way to "send a message" to the EBU, which organises the competition.

"They can censor and silence people all they want but people who love this contest are being fucked over and they need to see how pissed many of us are."

The discussion comes just after the EBU rebuked Swedish-Palestinian pop singer Eric Saade for compromising “the non-political nature of the event” by wearing a Palestinian scarf, the keffiyeh, wrapped around his wrist in his opening performance at the first semi-final late on Tuesday.

Ireland's act, Bambie Thug, similarly said they were forced to remove pro-Palestine symbols from their performance.

The artist had "Ceasefire" and "Freedom for Palestine" written in ancient Celtic script as part of their costume, but were ordered to change them by the EBU.

Protests are expected on Thursday in Sweden ahead of Golan's performance in the second semi-finals as part of continued demonstrations against Israel's participation in the competition.

According to various reports, the city of Malmo has majorly beefed up its police presence, brought in reinforcements from neighbouring countries, and has even cleared out local jail cells in case of mass arrests.

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