Israel should not be banned at the Eurovision

Israel should not be banned at the Eurovision

Israeli singer Eden Golan

There is currently a debate about Israel’s contribution to the 2024 Eurovision. The song, titled “October Rain” could be deemed too political to enter the contest. Israel is threatening to withdraw if it is not accepted. If we are going by the lyrics and not other reasons, I think Israel should not be banned this year. Here’s why.

Eden Golan and the song “October Rain” have been chosen to participate in the annual competition, which will take place in May in Malmö, Sweden. The words do not explicitly mention the October 7 Hamas attack in Israel but leave no doubt that they are the subject of it.

“Dancing in the storm/We have nothing to hide/Take me home/And leave the world behind/And I promise it will never happen again/I’m still wet from that October rain/October rain,” reads a verse of the song released by Israel’s public broadcaster (KAN).

As such, to this reader, it is a lament about the October massacre in Israel, not a reference to the Gaza campaign or the broader political context. So for me, it is not political though it is an awful choice of subject for the Eurovision right now.

No politics at the Eurovision

Eurovision is particularly careful to avoid any politics at the event. The question for the organizer European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is whether the lyrics of this song could be taken as political statements.

“If a song is deemed unacceptable for any reason, broadcasters have the option to submit a new song or lyrics, in accordance with the competition rules,” the EBU said.

In reality, this happens just about every year. Iceland and San Marino have previously been the unlikely subjects of reprimand.

Russia and Ukraine

A more telling case was Ukraine’s “1944” in 2016. Russia had annexed Crimea just two years before the contest. So many commentators saw “1944” as an allegory for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It started with the lyrics: “When strangers are coming; They come to your house; They kill you all and say; ‘We’re not guilty, not guilty.’”.

The EBU ultimately gave the green light to Jamala’s “1944” on the grounds it referenced historical events. How could it not come to the same conclusion in this case? So I believe Israel should not be banned.

The other particularity is that Ukraine and Russia are both members of the EBU. This is not the case with Israel and Palestine.

On a strictly songwriting basis, however, the song will probably fail at another level. The human cost of the Israeli campaign in Gaza makes it deeply unpopular around the world. Any song from Israel would have a rough ride in 2024, and several calls have been made to ban Israel outright. A song that refers to the current situation – even obliquely – is almost certain to be ignored. Nobody wants to be reminded about the horrors taking place there.

Notes:

  • Israel takes part in the Eurovision as it is a member of the EBU. Other non-European members include Australia and Morocco.
  • Israel has already won the Eurovision four times.
  • In 2007 already, its candidate was the subject of debate.
  • The country has hosted the event three times, in 1979, 1999 and 2010.

Lyrics by Michael Leahy

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