Two Belgian ministers call for Israel to be booted from Eurovision over war in Gaza

Culture ministers say contest should ban Israel as it did Russia after invasion of Ukraine; Kan says European Broadcasting Union yet to approve new submission, ‘Hurricane’

Eden Golan, winner of the reality show 'The Next Star to the Eurovision' during the final of the show on February 6, 2024. (Koko/Flash90)
Eden Golan, winner of the reality show 'The Next Star to the Eurovision' during the final of the show on February 6, 2024. (Koko/Flash90)

Two Belgian ministers have called for Israel to be barred from the Eurovision Song Contest while its war against Hamas is ongoing, as a punitive measure for the toll on Palestinian civilians.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the annual competition, has resisted calls from some artists and activists for Israel to be dropped from Europe’s May 7-11 song contest.

Belgium’s French-speaking Culture Minister Benedicte Linard and Flemish counterpart Benjamin Dalle added their voices this week to the call to kick Israel out.

“Just like Russia has been excluded from competitions and Eurovision following its invasion of Ukraine, Israel should be excluded until it puts an end to its flagrant violations of international law, which are causing thousands of victims, especially children,” Linard said on X.

There was no immediate response from the EBU, or from Israel. The EBU has repeatedly responded to such inquiries by stating that the Kan public broadcaster, as an independent news outlet, meets all of the requirements to take part in the contest — unlike its Russian counterpart — and that it will therefore not be barred.

Linard told parliament on Wednesday that she would ask French-language public broadcaster RTBF, which is organizing Belgium’s participation in Eurovision, to voice the concerns to the EBU.

A picture shows the headquarters of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which organizes the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest, on March 23, 2017 in Geneva. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Dalle said an Israeli suspension would be appropriate while so many Palestinian civilians were suffering, according to a report by Flemish broadcaster VRT.

Israel has already agreed to revise the lyrics of its potential submission to the song contest after the EBU took issue with verses that appeared to reference Hamas’s October 7 massacre, in which terrorists murdered 1,200 people in southern Israel and took 253 others hostage to Gaza.

The original Israeli submission was “October Rain,” a ballad that included lyrics such as: “There’s no air left to breathe” and “They were all good children, each one of them” — apparent allusions to victims of Hamas’s killing and kidnapping spree, which sparked the war.

Eurovision, to take place this year in the Swedish city of Malmo, bills itself as a non-political event and can disqualify contestants deemed to have violated that rule.

Last Sunday, Kan said that it would instead be submitting a new song titled “Hurricane,” based on the melody of “October Rain” but with all new lyrics, which is about a “young woman surviving a personal crisis.” Kan noted that the song will still need the approval of the EBU, but if the song is once again rejected it can appeal the decision.

On Thursday, the public broadcaster said it has yet to receive formal approval from the EBU for the song, but it plans to reveal it on Sunday regardless.

Israel has won the competition four times — in 1978, 1979, 1998, and most recently in 2018 with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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