Iceland threatens to boycott Eurovision over Israel’s participation

Decision on whether to boycott will come after Iceland’s national pre-Eurovision contest Söngvakeppnin


Hosts introduce the 2023 Eurovision Song contest, held in Liverpool. Eurovision 2024 is scheduled to take place in Mälmo, Sweden in May. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Iceland has officially threatened to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden this year over Israel’s participation in the annual event.

RÚV, Iceland's National Broadcasting Authority, announced on Tuesday that it would make its final decision on Iceland’s involvement in the song contest following its national pre-Eurovision contest Söngvakeppnin which determines the country’s entry for Eurovision. The RÚV cited the war in Gaza as the reason for the potential boycott.

RÚV director Stefán Eiríksson told the JC that the broadcasting service has received three petitions from musicians and composers, signed by members of the public, which urged RÚV to “request that Israel will not participate in Eurovision and for RÚV and Iceland to boycott Eurovision if Israel will participate.”

"These petitions as well as the heated discussion here in Iceland regarding the situation in Gaza have affected the artists that had already been selected to participate in Söngvakeppnin, as well as our staff, and after discussing this situation with all those concerned, the decision was taken to postpone the final decision to participate in Eurovision until after Söngvakeppnin.”

"By this we are trying to create a safe space around our national show and will assess the situation after that, taking many things into consideration.”

During an interview on Rás 2, Eiríksson said contestants set to compete in Söngvakeppnin - due to take place across three nights in late February - have agreed to do so with the goal of participating in Eurovision on behalf of Iceland, though some have expressed concerns over the escalating tensions in Israel and Gaza. According to Eiríksson, those concerns have been communicated to The European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

The decision on whether Iceland will participate in Eurovision will be made by RÚV in consultation with the winner of Söngvakeppnin, which will not become clear until mid-March.

"Deciding whether RÚV participates in Eurovision after the Söngvakeppnin ends is completely new," Rúnar Freyr Gíslason, the director of Söngvakeppnin, told RÚV.

Though the contestants in the Söngvakeppnin will not be announced until Saturday, one performer expected to compete is Palestinian singer Bashar Murad, 30, whose music addresses the Israeli occupation and gender equality in the Middle East.

The Jerusalem-based singer has previously performed with Iceland’s past Eurovison representatives Hatari, a punk-rock group widely known for raising the Palestinian flag during the 2019 Eurovision contest held in Israel.

On 18 January, the Iceland-Palestine Association and BDS Iceland, alongside numerous Icelandic musicians, held a demonstration outside the offices of RÚV to demand the broadcaster boycott Eurovision over Israel’s participation. More than 9,000 Icelanders have also signed a petition calling for Israel’s disqualification from Eurovision, citing alleged war crimes in Gaza.

In response to calls for Israel’s disqualification from Eurovision, Ziv Nevo Kulman, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, said: “On 7 October, Israel was brutally attacked by a vicious terrorist organisation that openly calls for its annihilation. Promoting a boycott of Israel is supporting the acts of Hamas, is giving a prize to terrorism and is incompatible with the values of the [Eurovision Broadcasting Union] and of the competition.”

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