Belgium TV union hacks Eurovision coverage with Gaza protest

Israel’s participation in this year’s Eurovision has led to a massive backlash [Getty]

The transmission of the Eurovision Song Contest in Belgium was interrupted on Thursday by pro-Gaza union members with a message condemning Israel’s “human rights violations” and in support of Palestinians.

The protest took place just before Israel’s participation in the semi-final of the competition following the killing of at least 34,904 Palestinians in Gaza and destruction of much of the enclave.

Israel’s candidate had earlier been booed by the crowd in Sweden during a dress rehearsal, over her country’s brutal war on Gaza, while protests have taken place outside the venue in Malmo, including by activist Greta Thunberg.

Broadcast live on Belgian channel VRT, the protest message read: “This is a union action. We condemn the human rights violations of the Israeli state. Israel is also destroying the freedom of the press. That’s why we temporarily interrupt the transmission.”

“We are convinced that the State of Israel is committing genocide and it is therefore scandalous that there is an Israeli candidate in the Eurovision song contest.

“We hope to send a signal to the Israeli government to stop the fighting and killings, allow international observers and the press to enter [Gaza] and sit down for a negotiated solution.”

The interruption comes amid backlash from pro-Palestine protesters over the participation of Israeli singer Eden Golan at the competition.

Several petitions have been made to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) demanding the exclusion of Israel, noting that Russia was banned following its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The (EBU) defended its decision to keep Israel in the competition, with deputy director general Jean Philip De Tender saying a ban would be contrary to the apolitical nature of the organisation.

At the end of March, contestants from nine countries, including Swiss favorite Nemo, called for a lasting ceasefire.

In December, UK contestant Olly Alexander signed a statement accusing Israel of genocide, following the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures requiring Israel to do all it can to prevent genocidal acts in its war on Gaza.

Outside the semi-final hosted in Malmo, Sweden, around 10,000 protesters gathered in the city’s main square to protest against Israel’s participation.

“I am a Eurovision fan and it breaks my heart, but I’m boycotting,” 30-year-old protester Hilda, who did not want to provide her surname, told AFP.

“I can’t have fun knowing that Israel is there participating when all those kids are dying. I think it’s just wrong.”

Protesters also held up banners that read “Liberate Palestine” and “EUR legitimises genocide”.

About 50 protesters made it to the front of the Malmo Arena, before being dispersed by police.

Protesters also entered the Eurovision Village, set up to allow spectators to watch the show on large screens.

Elsewhere in Malmo, about 100 counter-protesters gathered under police protection to express their support for Israel.

In addition to protests outside the venue, members of the audience booed and chanted “free Palestine” during Eden Golan’s dress rehearsal of her song ‘Hurricane’ on Wednesday.

Golan was also met with boos, as well as cheers, from an audience of 9,000 people during her performance on Thursday, which saw her enter the final set for Saturday.

Israel’s Broadcasting Corporation said it complained to the EBU about the booing and asked for the organisation to prevent it in the future.

Prior to Golan’s performance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished the singer good luck, saying that she had already won by defying protesters, who he accused of being antisemitic.

Israel’s original song entry, titled ‘October Rain’ was changed after being deemed too political by competition organisers for alluding to Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel.

Following her entry into the final Golan said: “It’s truly such an honour to be here, on stage performing and showing our voice, and representing us with pride and making it to the finals is something that’s crazy.”

Israel made its debut in Eurovision in 1973 and has won the contest four times. It will join 25 other countries, including bookmakers’ favourites Croatia and Switzerland in the final.

(AFP contributed to this report)

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *