Eurovision contestants call for ceasefire in Gaza, but vow to stay on in competition

A total of 37 countries are participating in the long-running show this year

Singer Olly Alexander, who's representing the UK at this year's Eurovision, is among nine artists who've called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Reuters
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Nine artists competing at this year's Eurovision Song Contest have called for a ceasefire in Gaza saying they "stand in solidarity with the oppressed".

"In light of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and particularly in Gaza, and in Israel, we do not feel comfortable being silent," reads a letter signed by the artists.

"It is important to us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and communicate our heartfelt wish for peace, an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and the safe return of all hostages. We stand united against all forms of hate, including antisemitism and Islamophobia."

Signatories include the UK's Olly Alexander, Ireland's Bambie Thug, Norway's Gate, Portugal's Iolanda, San Marino's Megara, Switzerland's Nemo, Denmark's Saba, Lithuania's Silvester Belt and Finland's Windows95man.

The artists, however, stopped short of saying they would boycott the long-running competition, which this year features 37 countries, including Israel.

"We firmly believe in the unifying power of music, enabling people to transcend differences and foster meaningful conversations and connections," the letter reads. "We feel that it is our duty to create and uphold this space, with a strong hope that it will inspire greater compassion and empathy."

The UK's Alexander, who's also an actor and former lead singer of pop group Years & Years, is perhaps the most high-profile name at this year's competition.

He posted another message reiterating his stance, after fans urged him to withdraw from Eurovision.

"I wholeheartedly support action being taken to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the return of all hostages and the safety and security of all civilians in Palestine and Israel," he writes on Instagram.

"I know some people will choose to boycott this year's Eurovision and I understand and respect their decision. As a participant, l've taken a lot of time to deliberate over what to do and the options available to me. It is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn't bring us any closer to our shared goal.

"Instead, I've been speaking with some of the other EV contestants and we've decided that by taking part we can use our platform to come together and call for peace. I hope and pray that our calls are answered and there is an end to the atrocities we are seeing taking place in Gaza."

Competing countries, who all fall under the European Broadcasting Area, have come under pressure to withdraw from the competition to protest Israel's killing of thousands of innocent Palestinians.

The European Broadcasting Union, which has been organising the contest since 1956, has so far resisted calls for Israel to be excluded at this year's competition.

In 2022, Russia was banned from competing in the song contest after its invasion of Ukraine. The country's national broadcasters subsequently suspended their memberships of the EBU in protest, preventing them from taking part in future contests.

Earlier this month, Israel unveiled a new song for the competition after the country faced push back to the lyrics of their previous entry.

The country's representative, Eden Golan, will now perform Hurricane, after her original track, October Rain, caused controversy as the lyrics were thought to reference the Hamas attacks of October 7.

Meanwhile, officials in the Swedish city of Malmo, host of this year's competition, say they are bracing for possible unrest when the competition is held from May 7 to 11.

"There is currently, according to the information we have from our partners, no direct threat to Eurovision," said Malmo Safety Director Per-Erik Ebbestahl last week. "Given the situation, things could change."

Malmo Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh said that wile many would visit the city for the competition and related festivities, many would also want to stage protests and express political opinions in connection with the event.

"We stand behind the right of all people to express their democratic views. Then there is also always a risk that someone will use the attention for less peaceful purposes or to disrupt and fight," she said at a news conference.

"I have great confidence in the police's ability to work for a safe city even when so many different people come to visit," she added.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 31, 2024, 7:58 AM