Eden Golan booed at Eurovision dress rehearsal, vows not to be deterred

Israeli contestant also gets cheers and applause as she performs ‘Hurricane;’ Kan broadcaster, which coordinates Israel’s entry to competition, says protests ‘did not silence her’

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

Israel's contestant Eden Golan performs the song 'Hurricane' during the dress rehearsal for the second semifinal at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, May 8, 2024. (Martin Meissner/AP)
Israel's contestant Eden Golan performs the song 'Hurricane' during the dress rehearsal for the second semifinal at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, May 8, 2024. (Martin Meissner/AP)

Israeli contestant Eden Golan was met with boos by some people in the crowd at a dress rehearsal on Wednesday for the second Eurovision semifinal, which is slated for Thursday evening in Malmo, Sweden.

Videos posted to social media showed noisy disapproval as she took to the stage during the rehearsal — to which discounted tickets are sold to the public — as well as when she switched from English to Hebrew for the final lines of her song, “Hurricane.” The singer was also met with applause from many in the crowd.

In a statement following the incident, Golan said, “I am proud to represent my country, particularly this year. I am receiving support and love and I am determined to give my best performance tomorrow in the semifinal and nothing will deter me from that goal!”

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, which coordinates the country’s participation in the contest, said in a statement that “Eden stood on the stage during the dress rehearsal with pride and gave an incredible performance. They did not silence her and they will not silence us. See you tomorrow.”

On Thursday morning, Kan said that it had issued a complaint to the European Broadcasting Union and to SVT, Sweden’s public broadcaster, about the booing at the show as well as a series of political incidents during the first semifinal on Tuesday night.

Kan said in a statement that it “requested that EBU and SVT work to prevent a repeat of instances like this, and demanded that they allow Israel to compete fairly in tonight’s semifinal.”

The competition has been heavily overshadowed by protests and threats against Israel’s participation due to the ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Anti-Israel activists rallied for months to have Israel barred from the 2024 contest, a move the EBU rejected.

All contestants and performers at the Eurovision are barred by regulations from making any political statements on stage, and fans in the audience as well as competitors are not allowed to display any flag outside of the countries competing in the competition — a longstanding rule.

At the first semifinal on Tuesday, opening act Palestinian-Swedish singer Eric Saade — who had complained about the ban on Palestinian flags — wore a Palestinian keffiyeh around his wrist as a form of protest, which was later condemned by the EBU. Also Tuesday, Irish entry Bambie Thug says they were forced by the EBU to remove pro-Palestinian writing in an ancient language from their face and leg; and Australian musician Fred Leone says he wore body paint on stage resembling a watermelon as an act of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Eric Saade performs the song “Popular” while wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh on his wrist during the opening of the first semifinal at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, May 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Mass protests are planned on Thursday evening in Malmo as Golan is slated to take the stage in the contest, hoping to qualify for Saturday night’s grand final. A major anti-Israel demonstration is expected, as well as a smaller pro-Israel one. The city has significantly beefed up its police presence, including bringing in heavily armed reinforcements from Denmark and Norway, and has even cleared out local jail cells in case of mass arrests.

Golan has been largely confined to her hotel room throughout the week, with a heavy security detail amid a series of threats against the delegation. In an unusual move, the head of the Shin Bet visited Malmo last week to coordinate security ahead of the event.

At the culmination of Tuesday’s semifinal, 10 nations advanced to Saturday’s grand final, including the Israeli-born singer representing Luxembourg, Tali Golergant, who goes by the mononym Tali. Ten more nations will advance on Thursday, and join six automatic qualifiers in competing for the win and the right to host next year’s competition.

The Eurovision is usually watched by more than 150 million people around the world, and is often referred to as music’s biggest stage. The competition is hugely popular in Israel, which has won it four times, most recently in 2018. Bookmakers rank this year’s entry in the top 10.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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