Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters march in Sweden against Israel’s Eurovision appearance

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest is taking place in Malmö, Sweden

Kevin E G Perry
Thursday 09 May 2024 22:03 BST
Rylan defends Eurovision ahead of Israel's performance at semi-final

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators have taken to the streets of Malmö to protest against Israel’s participation in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The competition’s second semi-final is taking place today (9 May) in the Swedish port city.

Demonstrators have called for other countries to boycott the contest over Israel’s offensive in Gaza following Hamas’s 7 October attack.

Police estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 people took part in today’s demonstration, which saw Palestinian flags being waved through the historic Stortorget square. Among those in the crowd was the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“It’s important to be here,” Amani Eli-Ali, a Malmo resident of Palestinian heritage, told AP. “It’s not OK for Sweden to arrange this Eurovision and have Israel in the contest.”

Protester Saadallah Aoudi, a Swedish citizen with Palestinian roots, added that “this is the wrong time” for Israel to take part in the competition.

Police face pro-Palestinian protesters in Malmo during the Eurovision semi-final on 9 May 2024
Police face pro-Palestinian protesters in Malmo during the Eurovision semi-final on 9 May 2024 (TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Ima)

“It’s about songs, and songs are about love. … They should be here when there is peace,” he said.

A smaller pro-Israel protest was also held in a central Malmo square.

Pro-Palestinian groups say they plan to march again on Saturday, the day of the Eurovision final.

Israel’s Eurovision entry, Eden Golan, was booed during a dress rehearsal on Wednesday. She was met with chants of “Free Palestine” and jeers by some members of the crowd.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has allowed Israel to enter this year’s song contest, despite the country’s ongoing attacks on Gaza.

The Palestinian death toll is believed to have reached 34,000 people.

Golan, 20, has told ITV News that she could not have asked “for a better year to be representing my country”.

Ahead of the protests, BBC presenter Rylan came to the defence of Eurovision.

Speaking from Malmö, Rylan, who is hosting the BBC’s coverage alongside Graham Norton and Scott Mills, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the city is doing “an amazing job of hosting”.

“The climate in the world at the minute isn’t great and you know we’re not silly to not understand that there’s a lot going on in the world, but I think in the Eurovision bubble it’s a song contest, it’s all about the music and that’s what we’re here for,” said the 35-year-old.

“The city has done an amazing job, there’s a lot of demonstrations happening and people have got the right to do that, but it’s just about the music.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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