Eurovision fury after Iceland fined for Palestinian protest in Tel Aviv

Eurovision 2019: Hatari display Palestine flags during results

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Fans around Europe, and more recently the rest of the world, will be eagerly anticipating Eurovision’s finals this weekend. The song contest has become a global phenomenon, with Australia having made its first appearance in 2013. This year, however, Australia hasn’t made the cut, with countries like Norway, Israel, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus and Lithuania, among others, beating the competition to a place in the grand final.

The Big Five – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – automatically secure a place in the final each year as they each make the biggest financial contributions to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

While many watch the competition for the music and extravagant performances, others closely observe each country for hints of geopolitical relations.

Eurovision has become highly politicised as nations pledge their allegiance to one other through the maximum 12 points on offer.

Tensions are at boiling point this year following the near-conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the recent flare up of violence between Israel and Palestine.

Many are predicting a repeat of what was seen when Tel Aviv hosted the event in 2019.

It was here that Iceland became embroiled in a political debate after its entrants held banners with Palestine flags during the televised final.

The country’s group, Hatari, brandished the banners when the final results were being announced.

In a statement following the event, the European Broadcasting Union told AFP that the protest infringed their rules, which bans political gestures.

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They declined to reveal how much Iceland had been fined.

However, they said it was “in line with the rules of the competition”.

A spokesperson for the EBU added: “In the live broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest grand final, two of Madonna’s dancers briefly displayed the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their outfits.

“This element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been cleared with the EBU and the host broadcaster, KAN [Israel’s state broadcaster].

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“The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”

The fine was also upheld after an appeal.

Before the competition, Hatari was known for its opposition to Israeli presence and settlements in Palestinian territories.

However, rule 2.6 of the competition stipulates that participants should do nothing to use it for political ends.

During the same event guest performer Madonna provoked controversy after her dancers had Palestinian and Israeli flags stuck to their backs.

Miri Regev, Israel’s former Culture Secretary, said: “It was a mistake.

“You cannot mix politics at a cultural event, with all due respect to Madonna.”

Many are predicting protests at this year’s event when Israel takes to the stage, and in the voting.

Pro-Palestinian activists recently demonstrated outside the semi-finals during Eden Alene, Israel’s contestant’s performance.

This week, she took to Instagram to express her own grief at the situation in the Middle East.

Ms Alene wrote: “My heart is with you every minute, hurting, loving, strengthening and following with worry everything that is happening in Israel.”

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