Israel to change lyrics of Eurovision entry amid calls for expulsion

This article is about the lyrics of Israel's Eurovision entry. The image shows a neon
This article is about the lyrics of Israel's Eurovision entry. The image shows a neon "Eurovision Song Contest" sign. Review News via Shutterstock

Israel has agreed to change the lyrics of its Eurovision entry after the song was scrutinised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) for breaking the contest’s rules on political neutrality. Eden Golan’s ‘October Rain’ is said to contain references to the Hamas attack on October 7, which triggered a devastating and violent Israeli military retaliation on Gaza, killing over 30,000 Palestinians to date and displacing 90% of the Strip’s population.

According to a statement published by Israel’s public broadcaster Kan on Sunday, March 3, the country’s president Isaac Herzog requested that “necessary adjustments” be made to the track in order to ensure its inclusion in the competition. He stated that “it is precisely at a time when those who hate us are seeking to repress and boycott the State of Israel” that it “must raise its voice…loud and clear in every world forum.”

As reported by Kan, writers of both ‘October Rain’ and Israel’s backup Eurovision entry ‘Dance Forever’ were contacted and asked to “revise their lyrics, while preserving their artistic freedom”.

“Among the new texts that will be proposed, Kan will choose the song that will be sent to the Eurovision supervisory committee, so that it approves Israel’s participation in the competition,” it said.

This comes despite the broadcaster previously stating that it had “no intention to replace the song” and threatening to withdraw from the contest unless it was approved by the EBU. 

The international campaign to boycott Eurovision over Israel’s participation has received increasing support in recent months, with over 1,000 people emailing RTÉ urging the organisation to put pressure on the EBU to expel the country.

“While it claims to be a non-political competition of broadcasters, the ban of Russia in 2022 due to their invasion of Ukraine indicates a willingness of the EBU to impose sanctions on a nation’s broadcaster for the actions of their government,” the free-to-use email template reads.

“Exclusion of the representatives of an oppressive power from international events is an effective tool to express a collective rejection and condemnation of the actions of that State.”

It continues: “Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest raises legitimate ethical and moral questions, and damages the event’s reputation as a platform for peacefulness, cultural exchange and inclusivity.

“Should the EBU allow the broadcasting representative of Israel to compete this year, and RTÉ take no stance against their participation, I will no longer watch the Eurovision Song Contest…I am sure I will not be alone in this.

“Not only will this lead to a significant drop in viewership, it stands to reflect poorly on RTÉ and our national legacy for years to come,” the email concludes.

Furthermore, Ireland’s entry Bambie Thug previously stated they do not believe Israel should be allowed to compete, but said, “It’s not down to the contestants though, it’s down to the Eurovision itself.”

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