Rishi Sunak slams protests and boycott calls over Israel’s Eurovision appearance

Prime minister criticises ‘outrageous’ scenes in Malmo after thousands march to demonstrate against Israel’s participation in the competition

Kate Devlin
Friday 10 May 2024 18:38 BST
Israel's Eurovision entry Eden Golan responds to Palestine protests as she makes final

Rishi Sunak has slammed “outrageous” protests and calls for a boycott over Israel's participation in the Eurovision song contest.

Downing Street said the prime minister urged demonstrators to consider the feelings of Israeli and Jewish Eurovision fans watching the scenes.

An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched through Malmo, where the contest is being held, on Thursday.

More marches are planned for the day of the final itself on Saturday while there have also been calls for artists to boycott the competition over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which has seen more the 34,000 Palestinians killed.

No 10 said: “The Prime Minister thinks that these protests are wrong. And so the scenes you’ve seen have been outrageous.”

The prime minister share the “deep concern” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, they said, but add: “When it comes to this debate around Eurovision and these protests, we are incredibly mindful of the Israelis and also Jewish people around the world, who love Eurovision and their feelings of seeing this in the aftermath of what was an atrocious terror attack, and while hostages are still being held by Hamas. He would urge people to consider this when repeating these unfair calls for boycott.”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in the Stop Israel demonstration against Israel’s participation
Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in the Stop Israel demonstration against Israel’s participation (via REUTERS)

The prime minister's spokeswoman added: “There is always the right for peaceful protest, that’s part of democracy here and around the world, but in terms of the prime minister’s opinion, these scenes and whether it is right to call for a boycott of their acts, no - he thinks that’s wrong.”

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who took part in the protests, has accused Israel of trying to “artwash” through the contest.

The phrase describes the use of artistic performance to try to distract from other actions.

Israeli act Eden Golan, whose emotional song Hurricane was reworked from a previous track called October Rain, thought to reference the Hamas attacks on Israel, will take part in the final.

She has previously been warned to stay in her hotel room amid safety concerns.

Eden Golan in the semi-final
Eden Golan in the semi-final (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

During rehearsals on Wednesday Golan was reportedly booed and facing shouts of “free Palestine” in the arena.

A day later as she appeared in the semi-final, she was applauded and cheered by the audience.

The UK’s Olly Alexander and Ireland’s Bambie Thug are among the artists who rejected pressure not to compete.

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