Israel raises travel warning to Sweden’s Malmo ahead of Eurovision

Citing a ‘well-founded fear’ of violence, National Security Council asks Israelis to weigh trip to Sweden; IDF Home Front Command to issue warnings via mobile app to Israelis there

Israel's Eden Golan (center) rehearsing her song 'Hurricane' ahead of the Eurovision in Malmo, Sweden, on April 30, 2024. (Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU)
Israel's Eden Golan (center) rehearsing her song 'Hurricane' ahead of the Eurovision in Malmo, Sweden, on April 30, 2024. (Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU)

Israel issued an updated travel warning for the Eurovision Song Contest on Thursday, defining the Swedish city of Malmö as a Level 3 — or moderate —  threat.

A warning from the National Security Council cited “a well-founded fear” that terrorists would target Israelis attending the Eurovision.

“Malmö is known as a center of anti-Israeli protests,” said the updated warning, explaining that the city has many immigrants from the Arab world.

“These protests occur on a weekly basis and sometimes include shouting, calls to harm Jews, Israelis, burning Israeli flags and more. It should be noted that on October 7, anti-Israeli elements in Malmö expressed joy at the events of the massacre that Hamas carried out in Israel.”

There have also been increased calls by global jihadist groups to attack Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, said the NSC.

“These developments raise a well-founded fear that terrorist elements will take advantage of the protests and the anti-Israeli atmosphere in order to harm Israelis who will come to Eurovision,” read the warning. “The Swedish authorities have increased security measures in Malmö, but it should be noted that, unlike the Israeli delegation to the competition, the Israeli visitors do not receive dedicated security.”

A demonstrator burns an Israeli flag outside a synagogue in Malmo, Sweden, on November 4, 2023. (The Council of Swedish Jewish communities)

In a rare move, the Israeli military’s Home Front Command was to issue guidelines to Israelis who traveled to Malmö despite the warnings, in the event of an emergency there.

The instructions are to be issued via the Home Front Command mobile app, which is normally only used in Israel for rocket attacks and other incidents such as earthquakes.

The military said the Home Front Command would update its app for Israelis staying in the city with “instructions for behavior in an emergency situation, outside the country’s borders.”

It said  the app would enable the National Security Council to send messages in “real-time” to Israelis in Malmö between May 2 and 12, “subject to an assessment of the situation.”

“This is a unique move adapted for the Eurovision event only and within the defined schedules,” the IDF added.

Malmö was under a Level 2 warning previously, meaning there was an “occasional threat.”

The new warning will apply for the period of the Eurovision contest being held May 7-11.

The NSC advised Israelis to consider the necessity of their trip.

Israel will be represented by singer Eden Golan at the contest.

The announcement came amid heightened tensions surrounding Israel’s participation in the annual music competition over its war against Hamas in Gaza, now in its seventh month. Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel groups are expected to stage large protests in Malmo alongside the event.

The completed Eurovision stage at Malmo Arena is shown at a press conference in Malmo, Sweden, on April 25, 2024. (Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency via AP, File)

In March, an Israeli security official said Israelis traveling to the event should take care to hide their identity.

“We are not saying not to travel there, but those who travel should not display their Zionism,” said the official during a briefing to Israeli reporters ahead of the Passover holiday.

“They shouldn’t walk around with little Israeli flags,” the official said. “You can speak Hebrew with each other, but you don’t have to shout to family or friends at the other end of the street.”

Organizers in Sweden said on Thursday that they reserve the right to remove any Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols at the show.

Michelle Roverelli, the head of communications for the European Broadcasting Union that runs the show each year, said ticketholders are only allowed to bring and display flags that represent countries that take part in the event, as well as the rainbow-colored LGBT flag.

National flags are a common sight during the contest as fans cheer on their country’s acts and those they support.

Light illuminates the minarets of al-Taiba mosque at sunset before the tents of displaced Palestinians at a camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 30, 2024. (AFP)

Swedish police have warned that security will be tight, citing a threat of terrorism in the wealthy Nordic country.

Pro-Palestinian activists who want Israel — a former winner — out of the Eurovision Song Contest have announced large rallies in downtown Malmo, several kilometers (miles) from the Malmo Arena contest venue.

Last month Swedish police said they had received an application for a demonstration in Malmo to burn a copy of the Quran before the contest.

Sweden raised its terror threat level last year following a series of burnings of the Quran that triggered protests in the Muslim world.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Agencies contributed to this report

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