Finnish and Icelandic artists call for Israel to be banned from Eurovision

More than 1,400 Finland-based artists sign petition for Israel to be excluded from contest over alleged war crimes in Gaza

More than 1,400 Finnish artists have joined Icelandic musicians in demanding that Israel be banned from this year’s Eurovision song contest over alleged war crimes in Gaza.

If Israel is not excluded from the competition, which will be held in the Swedish city of Malmö in May, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) should boycott the contest and refuse to send a Finnish entry, they say.

“It is not in accordance with our values that a country that commits war crimes and continues a military occupation is given a public stage to polish its image in the name of music,” reads a petition that has been signed by Finland-based artists, musicians and music industry professionals.

“At the same time other participating countries end up giving their support to Israel’s policies.”

Israel launched an assault on Gaza after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took 250 people hostage on 7 October. The Israeli military has killed at least 23,570 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Responding to the calls for a ban, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, said: “On 7 October, Israel was brutally attacked by a vicious terrorist organisation that openly calls for its annihilation. Promoting a boycott of Israel is supporting the acts of Hamas, is giving a prize to terrorism and is incompatible with the values of the [Eurovision Broadcasting Union] and of the competition.”

The UN’s international court of justice in The Hague heard opening arguments on Thursday in a case brought by South Africa in which Israel stands accused of acting with “genocidal intent” in Gaza. Israel has denied the allegations, calling them baseless. It will give its response on Friday.

Among the artists who have signed the Finnish petition are Olavi Uusivirta, Paleface and Axel Ehnström, who represented Finland at Eurovision in 2011.

Last month, the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists told its members not to participate in the show unless Israel was banned.

Lukas Korpelainen, one of the authors of the petition, told the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet it was unacceptable for Israel to take part in Eurovision “to polish its image”.

A Eurovision song contest spokesperson said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a competition for public service broadcasters from across Europe and the Middle East. It is a competition for broadcasters – not governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has participated in the contest for 50 years.”

It said Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, “meets all the competition rules” and would be able to participate in Malmö. “The Eurovision song contest remains a non-political event that unites audiences worldwide through music,” it said.