Greta Thunberg among 1,000s protesting against Israel competing in Eurovision

Greta Thunberg among 1,000s protesting against Israel competing in Eurovision

Greta Thunberg has joined pro-Palestine protests in Malmo against Israel competing in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The climate activist, 21, was at the Stop Israel demonstration, between Stortorget and Molleplatsen in the centre of the Swedish city ahead of a performance by singer Eden Golan who is representing Israel in the second semi-final on Thursday night.

Thunberg was wearing a keffiyeh, a scarf commonly used to show support for Palestine, around her body in the centre of the crowd.

During the march, Stockholm-born Thunberg refused to comment apart from telling the PA news agency that she was “good” while flanked by other young activists.

Swedish police have estimated between 10,000 to 12,000 people took part in the protest march.

During the demonstrations, smoke canisters in the colours of the Palestinian flag were set off and protesters, some of whom had dogs, young children and bicycles with them, were carrying signs displaying images of Gaza civilians who have been injured amid the Hamas-Israel conflict.

At one point, the pro-Palestinian demonstrators were told to go back by police and, following shouts of “free Palestine”, returned to the main gathering.

There was also a banner created with Eurovision-style branding with the words “genocide” on it, an accusation vigorously denied by Israel amid the war with Hamas which was sparked by the October 7 killings and kidnappings of hundreds of Israelis.

Protesters hold up a banner with the words in Swedish No To Genocide
Protesters hold up a banner with the words in Swedish No To Genocide (Martin Meissner/AP)

The sign was later taken to Malmo Arena, where activists handed out leaflets making similar allegations.

During Golan’s rehearsals in the arena on Wednesday of her song Hurricane, which was reworked from an earlier track called October Rain, thought to be a reference to the date of the Hamas attack, she was booed by some of those watching and there were reportedly shouts of “free Palestine”.

At a protest in Malmo, Rory Flynn, 27, from Kildare, told the PA he is from the Eurovision Irish fan club and has started a “separate movement” to protest against Israel, adding the country’s entry in Sweden is “overshadowing the competition”.

APTOPIX Sweden Eurovision Song Contest Dress Rehearsal
Eden Golan of Israel will perform at the second Eurovision semi-final on Thursday (Martin Meissner/AP)

He said: “We feel that it’s important to make our voices heard in the competition in the arena. Others are doing a full boycott – and full respect to people who are doing a full boycott – but we think it’s important that our voices are heard in the arena and around Malmo.”

Mr Flynn also said his group booed during Golan’s dress rehearsals this week, adding: “This song is a propaganda song. OK, it was originally called October Rain and now it’s called Hurricane, you can see there, it’s the same melody; the lyrics have been changed at the request of the EBU (European Broadcast Union), but it is the same song.

“And it is about justifying Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and I think that says it all really, you know, I think it’s quite appropriate to kind of boo that propaganda.”

Fellow Irishman Kieran O’Casey, 71, from Dublin, said he was not a Eurovision fan, but was in Malmo to make a stance against the bombing in Gaza.

“I’m not a hardliner that they (Ireland) should have totally boycotted,” he added.

“I don’t think Israel should have been allowed to participate, not in the face of Israel’s behaviour.

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People wave Palestinian flags during a Pro-Palestinian demonstration for excluding Israel from Eurovision (Martin Meissner/AP)

“There’s no way because in a way, it’s a kind of, it’s an acceptance you can do what you want but we’re gonna be pals and sing songs and wear glittery clothes while the bombing was going on. You know, it’s obscene.”

Protesters marched across the city to Molleplatsen Park, with the crowd stretching around a mile long.

Sweden Israel Palestinians Protests
People carry Israeli and Swedish flags during a pro-Israel demonstration to pay tribute to Israel’s Eurovision participant Eden Golan in Malmo, Sweden (Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency via AP)

Malmo-born Adam, who would not give his surname, told PA that the demonstrators were not “against Israelis” but the country’s “politics”.

He also said that there are “protests” against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking place in the Middle Eastern country.

A small gathering of pro-Israeli activists also held demonstrations in Malmo to show their support for Golan.