Israeli viewers watching the Eurovision song contest on the Kan public broadcaster’s website Tuesday were briefly interrupted by a series of threats after hackers apparently broke into a livestream.
The hacked message replaced the campy song contest with a video of a forged warning from the Israel Defense Forces telling viewers within 1.2 kilometers of the Eurovision song contest venue in north Tel Aviv to seek shelter from an imminent rocket attack.
The approximately two-minute video ended with a warning that “Israel is not safe, you will see.”
It was not immediately clear who was behind the hack attack, though Hebrew media speculated it may have come from pro-Palestinian groups in Arab states.
Kan, which is hosting the international song contest put on by the European Broadcast Union, said in a statement that it’s site had been hacked into for several minutes.
“We believe the messages were not distributed to many people. The EBU and Kan view cyber security with utmost importance and the matter is being investigated,” the statement read.
Pro-Palestinian activists who advocate a boycott of the Jewish state have mounted a concerted campaign against the song contest, which has drawn international attention and tens of thousands of tourists to Israel.
Pro-Palestinian activists staged a march near the venue ahead of the show Tuesday, calling for an end to Israel’s control of the West Bank and restrictions on Gaza.
But most artists at the event have steered clear of politics.
Iceland’s representative, Hatari, had sparked controversy in Israel by initially vowing to use the Eurovision spotlight to expose the “face of the occupation.” But at a press conference after the semifinal, Hatari offered a purely positive message. “We need to unite and remember to love,” he said, in the wake of “hate that’s on the rise in Europe.”
Madonna, who has been pressured by BDS activists to cancel her likely performance at the Saturday finale, said Tuesday that she will “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda.”
She arrived in Israel early Wednesday.
Israeli officials have also feared an outbreak of violence from Gaza or an attack on the show could scare away performers and attendees and cast a shadow over the contest, which is seen as a major asset for the country to show the world a friendlier side and boost tourism.
On May 4, two days of intense rocket fire from Gaza on Israel’s south began just as performers were beginning their first rehearsals. Over 650 rockets were shot and 300 reprisal raids were carried out in two days before the sides agreed to a ceasefire.
An army official told reporters that the military had been told to wrap up its operations before Eurovision, though the political leadership has insisted the timing of the show did not play a role in strategic decisions.
The next semifinal will be held on Thursday night before the grand finale on Saturday.