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Israel Eurovision entry booed during dress rehearsals, vows to carry on 

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Israel’s Eurovision entry has been booed by the audience during a dress rehearsal, but vowed to continue with the performance.

The moment took place at the dress rehearsal for the second wave of semi-finals yesterday (May 8), with the live performance set to take place tonight.

In footage captured of the performance, Israel contestant Eden Golan is seen performing her entry song ‘Hurricane’ on the stage in Sweden, while numerous members of the crowd start to boo.

The backlash to the performance comes amid controversy about Israel being allowed to compete in the 2024 edition of the song contest in light of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and the footage also shows an audience member shouting “Free Palestine”. Because of the inclusion, there have been a number of calls to boycott the competition from various countries.

Over 1,000 Swedish artists, for instance, called for Israel to be banned this year, including Robyn, Fever Ray, and First Aid Kit. Similarly, over 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals signed a petition to ban the country from taking part in the contest as well.

Israel also stirred controversy with their entry song. Originally titled ‘October Rain’, the track appeared to contain references to the victims of Hamas’ October 7 attacks and was barred from performance due to breaking rules on political neutrality. Though Israel originally threatened to withdraw from the competition if any changes were to be made, a call from Israeli president Isaac Herzog for “necessary adjustments” to ensure Israel’s participation has prompted their public broadcaster KAN to agree to amend the song.

On March 9, Israel was confirmed to compete after changes were made to the lyrics and the song’s title was changed to ‘Hurricane’.

More recently, Eurovision organisers confirmed that they reserve the right to remove Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols during this year’s final, and have again defended their decision not to boycott Israel.

Following footage of the crowd booing her performance in last night’s semi-final rehearsal, shown above, Golan shared a statement reading (via EuroNews): “I am proud to represent my country, particularly this year. I am receiving support and love and I am determined to give my best performance tomorrow in the semifinal and nothing will deter me from that goal!”

The 20-year-old singer also went on to say that she wouldn’t be letting the uproar affect her as Israel’s presence on the Eurovision stage “has such huge significance and meaning, because of what we’re going through.”

“I won’t let anything break me, or move me off track,” she said (via New York Times) “I am here to show the voice of an entire nation. To show that we’re here, that we are strong, but emotional and broken.”

“What’s under my control is to give the best performance ever, to touch people’s souls, to make them feel something,” Golan added. “I know I’m not in this alone. Maybe I’m the one standing on stage performing and singing, but I have our entire country behind me and with me and I’m going to represent us.”

The grand finale of Eurovision 2024 is set for May 11 and will be held in Malmö, Sweden – the country of last year’s winner, Loreen.

Eden Golan from Israel with the song “Hurricane” on the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2024 during rehearsals for the second semi-final on May 9, 2024 in the Malmö Arena. CREDIT: Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images

All contestants have been barred by regulations from making any political statements on stage, and fans in the audience are banned from displaying any flag outside of the countries competing in the competition.

In the first half of the semi-finals (May 7), opening act Palestinian-Swedish singer Eric Saade — who had previously criticised the decision to ban Palestinian flags – wore a Palestinian keffiyeh around his wrist as a form of protest. This was later condemned by the EBU (via Times Of Israel).

The outlet also reported that Australian musician Fred Leone wore body paint on stage resembling a watermelon, as an act of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Yesterday (May 8), it was confirmed that Ireland’s Eurovision entry Bambie Thug was forced to change their pro-Palestine message by the competition’s organisers. This came after they performed at the first wave of semi-finals wearing an outfit that showed body paint in Ogham script – an early Mediaeval alphabet – which translated to ceasefire and freedom.

Speaking of the change, the singer said: “It was very important for me because I’m pro-justice and pro-peace. Unfortunately, I had to change those messages today to ‘crown the witch’ only (which was an) order from the EBU.”

There has been pressure on contestants, including Bambie Thug and UK representative Olly Alexander to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestine. However, in a collective statement, the two reaffirmed their pro-Palestine stance whilst announcing they would not boycott.

Israel is still set to compete, and the second half of semi-final shows will be held tonight, ahead of the weekend’s finale. You can check out the odds for the contestants here.

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