May 26th, 2024

Organizers of Eurovision Song Contest ready to remove Palestinian flags or symbols

By Jamey Keaten And Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press on May 2, 2024.

GENEVA (AP) – Organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest said Thursday they reserve the right to remove any Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols at the show next week in Sweden.

The announcement came amid heightened tensions surrounding Israel’s participation in the annual music competition over its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, now in its seventh month. Pro-Palestinian groups are expected to stage large protests in Malmo to raise awareness of their cause.

Michelle Roverelli, the head of communications for the European Broadcasting Union that runs the show each year, said ticket holders are only allowed to bring and display flags representing countries that take part in the event, as well as the rainbow-colored flag.

The Geneva-based EBU reserves the right “to remove any other flags or symbols, clothing, items and banners being used for the likely purpose of instrumentalizing the TV shows,” she told The Associated Press in a text message.

Swedish news agency TT reported that the anyone who tries to bring a Palestinian flag or a sign with a political message will be stopped at the entrance by guards.

Martin Österdahl, the contest’s executive supervisor, told TT that “these rules are the same as last year. There is no change.”

National flags are a common sight during the contest as fans cheer on their country’s acts and those they support.

The glitzy gala, which draws hundreds of millions of viewers each year, is held this year from May 7-11 in Malmo in southern Sweden, following last year’s victory by Loreen for its performance of “Tattoo” last year.

Winners earn the right for their country to host the following year’s event: Sweden is set to host for a record-equalling 7th time.

Swedish police have warned that security will be tight, citing a threat of terrorism in the wealthy Nordic country.

Pro-Palestinian activists who want Israel – a former winner – out of the Eurovision Song Contest have announced large rallies in downtown Malmo, several kilometers (miles) from the Malmo Arena contest venue.

Israel’s national security council on Thursday issued a warning urging people to reconsider travel to Malmo, saying it is “a focus for anti-Israel protests” that include calls to attack Israelis and the burning of Israeli flags.

“These developments raise the tangible concern that terrorists will exploit the protest and the anti-Israel atmosphere to carry out an attack on Israelis who will arrive for the Eurovision,” it said.

On Thursday, Swedish police said they granted permission to demonstrators planning to burn a copy of the Quran in Malmo before the contest. Such rallies are allowed in Sweden, and police need to cite specific grounds, such as risks to public safety, if they want to reject a permit for a demonstration or public gathering.

Last year, Sweden raised its terror threat level last year following a series of burnings of the Quran that triggered protests in the Muslim world.

In recent weeks, spillover reaction around the world to the nearly 7-month war between Israel and Hamas has fanned large protests on U.S. university campuses and beyond.

___

Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark. Joe Federman contributed from Jerusalem

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