Eurovision – Finnish artists want Israel to be excluded from the Gaza war contest

More than 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals have signed a petition urging Israel to be banned from Eurovision for alleged “war crimes” in Gaza.

If Israel is not excluded from the contest, they want the public broadcaster Yle to withdraw Finland’s participation in the contest.

Yle says he is following the position of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), organizer of the contest.

Last month, Icelandic musicians made similar demands to radio station Rúv.

Lukas Korpelainen, one of the petition’s authors, told Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper that it was not acceptable for Israel to “participate in the Eurovision Song Contest to polish its image.”

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Among the signatories are Finnish artists Olavi Uusivirta, Paleface and Axel Ehnström, who represented the country in the 2011 competition.

They accuse Yle of double standards, saying the broadcaster was one of the first to demand Russia’s exclusion from the 2022 contest, “and we expect the same active defense of Yle’s values now as well.”

A day after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Yle representative Ville Vilén said Moscow’s attack was “contrary to all the values that Yle and other European broadcasters represent.”

Shortly afterward, the EBU banned Russia from participating.

Vilen said the situation in Israel and Gaza “is not exactly the same.”

“As terrifying as it is, it is not a war of interstate aggression like between Russia and Ukraine,” he told the Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat last month.

Yle’s head of communications, Jere Nurminen, told Hufvudstadsbladet that the company was following the situation and talking to the EBU and other public broadcasters.

Yle also plans to meet with the petition’s authors.

In December, the EBU issued a statement saying that Eurovision was “for broadcasters, not governments” and that Israel had participated for 50 years.

He said member organizations had agreed that Israel’s public broadcaster “complies with all competition rules” and insisted the contest was a “non-political event.”

The BBC has contacted Israel’s Culture Ministry and public broadcaster Kan for comment.

This year’s Eurovision will take place in the Swedish city of Malmö, with the United Kingdom represented by pop star Olly Alexander.

After it emerged that Alexander had endorsed a statement accusing Israel of genocide, an Israeli official told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that the arguments were “absurd” and accused the signatories of “anti-Israel bias.”

More than 23,350 people have been killed in Gaza during Israel’s military campaign, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s Health Ministry.

The war was triggered after an attack by gunmen belonging to Hamas – classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western governments – in southern Israel. Around 1,300 people, most of them civilians, were killed and another 240 were taken hostage.

Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza before mounting a ground operation with the stated goal of “destroying the military and governance capabilities of Hamas” as well as freeing hostages.

The complete blockade of Gaza by the Israeli army has cut off the supply of food, medicine and fuel. UN agencies say 26% of Gazans – 576,600 people – have exhausted their food supplies and survival capabilities and face “catastrophic hunger and starvation.”

According to Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, 1.9 million Gaza residents – about 85% of the population – have been displaced, and 1.4 million of them are taking refuge in its facilities.