Israel hits sour note in failed bid for Eurovision finals

Israel hits sour note in failed bid for Eurovision finals

Singer Moran Mazor stoic, despite Israel’s third successive early exit, but agent decries unfair judging; Malmo contest also marred by talk of terror and anti-Semitism

In a Eurovision showing that was sidetracked by reports of terror threats and a controversy over costume design, Israel’s representative to the annual televised song contest, Moran Mazor, on Thursday failed to impress the judges with her singing abilities and was eliminated in the semi-final stage.

Though her performance in Malmo, Sweden, seemed to go well, her song “Rak Bishvilo,” or “Only for Him,” evidently didn’t have what it takes to make it to the final stage to be held on Saturday, and Mazor — who celebrated her 22nd birthday Thursday — will be returning to Israel, sad at losing, but determined to carry on with her singing career.

“I am sad that I didn’t make it to the finals. I did my best,” Mazor told Ynet News. “I want to thank all the people who supported me. This is just a single step in my career. I will come back to Israel and keep on working.”

Mazor’s agent, popular singer Eyal Golan, was less diplomatic in his reaction to the early exit.

“We all saw today that it wasn’t exactly a fair competition. Songs I wouldn’t have performed in front of a firing squad made it through, while a wonderful song by an excellent singer, who gave an incredible performance, failed. Dear Moran, be proud of yourself,” Golan wrote on his Facebook page.

This is the third year in a row that Israel has failed to make it past the semi-final round. Israel has won the contest three times, most recently in 1998, with Dana International’s song “Diva.”

The countries that did make it through to the next round are Hungary, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania, Norway, Iceland, Armenia, Finland, Malta and Greece. They will be competing against the qualifiers from the second semi-final: Moldova, Lithuania, Ireland, Estonia, Belarus, Denmark, Russia, Belgium, Ukraine, Holland — as well as sponsoring countries: UK, Italy, Spain, France and Germany, that automatically qualified — in the finals on Saturday.

The days and weeks leading up to the contest were rife with controversy. On Tuesday, a member of the Israeli delegation, Alon Amir, said that he and the two other Israelis were accosted by a group of young men when walking on the street in Malmo. Amir told the men he was from Cyprus, “because I knew where this was heading,” he told Sveriges Radio on Tuesday. “They said: ‘Where are the Israelis staying, we want to bomb the place,’” Amir said. “It wasn’t a joke.”

On Wednesday, the chairman of the Malmo municipality’s Culture Committee, Daniel Sestrajcic, said Israel should be boycotted from the Eurovision — a major international event with delegations from 39 countries. “Israel can return when Palestine is free,” he shouted at a demonstration commemorating the Palestinian “Catastrophe,” or Nakba — the Palestinian name for the creation of the state of Israel.

Hundreds of Jews and non-Jews are planning to walk together through the streets of Malmo during the finals on Saturday, while wearing kippas, as a sign of their opposition to anti-Semitism.

An additional controversy surrounding this year’s contest had to do with the dress Mazor was to wear in her performance. Mazor had reportedly commissioned famed fashion designer John Galliano to design her dress, but was prohibited from doing so by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which cited a drunken tirade by Galliano at a Paris cafe two years ago, caught on videotape, in which he hurled racist and anti-Semitic insults and slurred, “I love Hitler.”

Galliano’s publicist denied he had ever agreed to take on the job.

JTA contributed to this report

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