After rewriting disqualified song, Israel gets final approval to appear at Eurovision

Kan public broadcaster next week to reveal ‘Hurricane’, which received nod from EBU after it barred the original submission, ‘October Rain,’ over charges it was too political

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Eden Golan after winning the reality show 'Hakochav Haba' (Rising Star) and the right to represent Israel at the Eurovision, February 6, 2024. (Koko/Flash90)
Eden Golan after winning the reality show 'Hakochav Haba' (Rising Star) and the right to represent Israel at the Eurovision, February 6, 2024. (Koko/Flash90)

Eurovision organizers on Thursday approved Israel’s revised song entry for this year’s contest after it disqualified an earlier version, securing the country’s spot in the competition amid a wave of boycott calls.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs the contest, informed it on Thursday afternoon that the new version of its song, titled “Hurricane,” was granted final approval by the EBU’s oversight panel, capping weeks of uncertainty about Israel’s participation.

“Hurricane,” which will be performed at the Eurovision by singer Eden Golan, was written by Keren Peles, Avi Ohayon and Stav Beger, and will be revealed in full during a live broadcast on Kan on Sunday evening.

Israel’s original submission to the Eurovision, titled “October Rain,” was disqualified by the EBU for having political messaging, said Kan. The song had included lyrics reading “writers of the history/stand with me”; “I’m still wet from the October rain/October rain”; and a final section in Hebrew translated to: “There is no air left to breathe/No place, no me from day to day/They were all good kids, every one of them” — believed to be a reference to those murdered by Hamas on October 7.

Originally, Kan had said that it would refuse to submit a new song for contention after the EBU indicated it would not give approval to “October Rain.” But following the intervention of President Isaac Herzog, who pushed for Israel not to back out of the contest, the public broadcaster asked the songwriters to revise their entries for resubmission, and sent a new version to the EBU.

The new song, which uses the melody of “October Rain,” but includes all new lyrics, is about a “young woman surviving a personal crisis,” Kan said.

Noa Kirel of Israel during the flag ceremony during the Grand Finale of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, England, May 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

“This year it is more important that ever that we will stand on that stage and represent our country with pride,” said Golan on Instagram on Thursday. “I plan to do everything to represent our country with pride and to give everything I have in me to reach the maximum result.”

For months, the EBU has been facing calls from some artists and activists to bar Israel from taking part in the competition over its ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. On Thursday, they were joined by government-level voices, after two ministers from Belgium said Israel should not be allowed to participate, comparing the situation to Russia’s disqualification after its invasion of Ukraine.

The EBU has however repeatedly dismissed such calls, and said that Kan meets all the criteria to participate, and that the competition is among public broadcasters, not governments, and is non-political in nature.

Last month, EBU director general Noel Curran told AFP that “the Russian broadcasters themselves were suspended from the EBU due to their persistent breaches of membership obligations and the violation of public service values,” but that Kan is an independent news agency that remains in good standing with the EBU.

Some of the strongest calls to boycott Israel have emerged from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — which is hosting this year’s competition. Voices in some nations have called on their broadcasters to pull out if Israel is not barred from taking part, but so far no countries have made such a move, with most confirming their participation.

A slew of Hollywood names, including Helen Mirren, Liev Schreiber, Selma Blair and Sharon Osborne signed a petition last month rejecting the calls to bar Israel, saying it would turn the contest “from a celebration of unity into a tool of politics.”

Last week, before Kan agreed to rewrite its song submission, Herzog said that at a time when “those who hate us are seeking to expel us from every forum… we must find a way to be smart and not just right.”

President Isaac Herzog speaks at the annual IATI forum of CEOs of multinational high-tech companies operating in Israel held in Tel Aviv on Jan. 28, 2024. (Gilad Artzi)

And while many loud voices on social media have backed Israel being barred, the country still has pockets of support among Eurovision countries, and could in fact receive a boost due to the ongoing war, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 deadly onslaught. While Israel dropped in the Eurovision odds rankings after it appeared likely to back out of the contest, it rose steadily this week and reached 8th place out of 37 countries on Thursday. The confirmation of Israel’s participation is likely to send the country higher in the odds in the coming days.

Golan won’t be the only Israeli on stage in Malmo this year, after Luxembourg — which is rejoining the competition for the first time in decades — selected to send Israel-born Tali Golergant to represent it with her song “Fighter.”

While Israel secured its spot in the contest, Golan is still expected to face protests and boos at the competition, which bills itself as apolitical and does not allow political protests or the flying of any flag not representing a Eurovision participant country. Many of the popular Eurovision sites and blogs have limited their coverage of Israel’s entry this year over the controversy.

Israel has won the competition four times — in 1978, 1979, 1998, and most recently, in 2018, with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy.”

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