Swedish music stars call for Israel Eurovision ban over Gaza

<span>Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

More than 1,000 musical artists from Eurovision host country Sweden have signed an open letter calling for Israel to be excluded from this year’s edition of the song contest over its “brutal warfare in Gaza”.

Published in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the open letter says that by allowing Israel to participate, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) “is exhibiting a remarkable double standard that undermines the organisation’s credibility”.

“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,” says the letter, published late on Monday.

Signatories include internationally successful artists such as singers Robyn and Fever Ray, folk duo First Aid Kit, and former Swedish Eurovision contestants such as Eric Saade and Malena Ernman, the mezzo-soprano opera singer who is also the mother of climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The letter comes after a similar petition signed by about 1,400 artists from Finland and Iceland who also called for Israel to be excluded from the song contest, which will be held in Malmö from 7 to 11 May.

In response, EBU announced that Israel would not be excluded, emphasising the event’s apolitical status and arguing that the Eurovision song contest was a contest between public service broadcasters rather than states.

But countries have been excluded from Eurovision in the past. In 2022, EBU banned Russia from the event, saying its entry “would bring the competition into disrepute”. The decision was made by the broadcasting union’s executive board after it initially insisted that Russia would be allowed to compete.

A year earlier, in 2021, Belarus was not allowed to participate in the competition after EBU expelled the Belarusian public broadcaster BTRC for violating the broadcasting union’s press freedom rules.

Thirty-seven broadcasters are due to take part in this year’s 68th edition of the Eurovision song contest. Luxembourg will make a return after an absence of over three decades.

Iceland’s national broadcaster, RÚV, has said its decision on whether to participate in Eurovision or boycott this year’s event will be made by the winner of its own song competition, Söngvakeppnin, held in mid-March.

Israel has participated in the event since 1973 and won the competition four times, in 1978, 1979, 1998 and 2018.