Greta Thunberg accuses Israel of ‘artwashing’ reputation through Eurovision

Greta Thunberg joined a Stop Israel march in Malmö, Sweden, where thousands protested Israel’s inclusion

Alexander Butler
Friday 10 May 2024 20:08 BST
Thunberg accused Israel of ‘artwashing’ its reputation through the Eurovision Song Contest
Thunberg accused Israel of ‘artwashing’ its reputation through the Eurovision Song Contest (via REUTERS)

Greta Thunberg has accused Israel of “artwashing” its reputation at the Eurovision Song Contest after she joined pro-Palestinian protesters calling for a boycott of the event.

The 21-year-old joined a Stop Israel march in Malmö, Sweden, where thousands protested Israel’s inclusion in the competition over accusations the Israeli military was committing genocide in Gaza - something it strongly denies.

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

Artwashing describes the use of artistic performance to distract from perceived negative actions by people, groups, governments or countries.

Thunberg said: “People from all over Sweden are gathering in Malmo this week, where Eurovision is taking place, to protest against Israel’s participation in the competition.

Eden Golan of Israel performs the song Hurricane during the second semi-final at the Eurovision Song Contest (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“Yesterday we were tens of thousands people flooding the streets of Malmo. We will not accept that a country currently committing genocide is allowed a platform to artwash themselves.

“The world cannot remain silent in a genocide. Everyone who can must use their voice and speak up against Israel’s crimes and occupation.”

Israel has denied any accusations of genocide, which is a specific crime when certain acts are committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

It claims it has the right to defend itself following the attacks launched by Hamas in October that saw more than 1,000 Israelis killed and kidnapped.

Swedish police said an estimated crowd of 10,000 to 12,000 pro-Palestinian protesters who marched through Malmo on Thursday were “very peaceful”.

People carry Israeli and Swedish flags during a pro-Israel demonstration to pay tribute to Israel's Eurovision participant Eden Golan (TT)

The demonstrators, who were condemning Israel taking part in Eurovision amid the conflict in Gaza, walked through the streets of Malmo from Stortorget to Molleplatsen.

Police said nine people were warned about “disturbing the public order” and one man was arrested after allegedly carrying a knife and some tools in his bag.

Golan, 20, was congratulated by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said he was “proud” of the young performer.

During the semi-final, Golan was applauded and cheered by the audience, while dressed in a flowing sand-coloured dress.

That marked a change from Golan being booed during rehearsals on Wednesday, and reportedly facing shouts of “free Palestine” in the arena.

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

The event’s organiser said it would not censor the audience and encouraged the crowd to “attend in the spirit of the contest, embracing its values of inclusivity, celebrating diversity and being united by music”.

Golan said she was “going to continue to show up and perform and remind everyone that we are here to stay” - and is reportedly surrounded by security when travelling from her hotel to the contest venue.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak hit out at the demonstrations saying they were “wrong” and called the push for a boycott of Israel “unfair”.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister thinks that these protests are wrong and some of the scenes we’ve seen have been outrageous.

“We remain steadfast in our support for Israel and its right to self defence and its right to prevent a terror attack such as we saw from ever happening again.”

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