Eurovision organizer slams ‘online abuse’ aimed at artists over Israeli inclusion

Deputy head of European Broadcasting Union says some performers facing ‘targeted social media campaigns’ linked to ongoing war in Gaza

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

Hosts Alesha Dixon, Graham Norton, Hannah Waddingham and Julia Sanina appear on stage during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 on May 13, 2023 at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, northern England. (Paul Ellis/AFP)
Hosts Alesha Dixon, Graham Norton, Hannah Waddingham and Julia Sanina appear on stage during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 on May 13, 2023 at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, northern England. (Paul Ellis/AFP)

The European Broadcasting Union, the organizer of the Eurovision Song Contest, on Tuesday decried threats directed at participants in this year’s competition linked to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the decision to allow Israel to compete.

Jean Philip De Tender, the EBU’s deputy director, said in a statement that while “we understand that people will want to engage in debate and express their deeply held views” on the conflict, the EBU cannot accept “the targeted social media campaigns against some of our participating artists.”

De Tender stressed that the decision to include Israel “is the sole responsibility of the EBU’s governing bodies.” He said that while everyone has the right to express their opinion, “we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists,” who have no role in the decision-making process.

Security is expected to be on high alert ahead of the contest in Malmo, Sweden, next month, as the EBU has faced months of protests and boycott campaigns to exclude Israel from the contest. Israeli entrant Eden Golan, who will be singing “Hurricane” at the competition, is expected to be accompanied by heavy Shin Bet security, and the National Security Council has warned Israelis attending the event not to flaunt their identity.

Some of the participants in this year’s competition have faced online campaigns calling on them to drop out over Israel’s inclusion, with nine of them releasing a statement last month urging “an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and the safe return of all hostages,” while rejecting a boycott.

The EBU has even posted a full FAQ directly addressing Israel’s participation this year.

While Israel has secured its spot in the contest, Golan is still expected to face protests and boos at the competition. Many of the popular Eurovision sites and blogs have limited their coverage of Israel’s entry this year over the controversy, citing in part what they saw as the militarization of the “Kochav Haba” TV show which selected this year’s contestant.

Israel has won the competition four times — in 1978, 1979, 1998, and most recently, in 2018, with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy,” enabling the 2019 competition to be hosted in Tel Aviv.

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