Iceland fined for pro-Palestinian protest during contest

The band Hatari adorned Palestinian scarves, a move against the competition's rule on political neutrality

Iceland's Hatari hold up Palestinian flag at Eurovision
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Iceland has been fined after members of its act in the Eurovision Song Contest final brandished pro-Palestinian scarves, breaching the competitions rules against political messaging.

The group Hatari, which stands for "hater", brandished scarves with Palestinian flags when the final results were being announced at the end of the event, which was held last May in Tel Aviv.

Contest organisers the European Broadcasting Union said on Saturday  that the gesture infringed their rules banning political gestures.

They declined to say how much they had fined Iceland's public broadcaster, but said it was "in line with the rules of the competition". The fine had also been upheld following an appeal it said.

Hatari is known for their opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

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

The event, held in Israel, was subject to wide boycott calls. They had slammed the contest for being "built on a lie", criticising it as a whitewash of Israel's occupation of the Palestinians and a propaganda bid to improve Israel's image in the wider world. They also challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a wrestling match to be overseen by a UN-sponsored referee after the event.

In Israel, there were calls to prevent the group from entering the country, and they said that they had received a flurry of hate mail because of their comments about the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Instead, they were allowed in by Israeli authorities. Once inside Israel, the group travelled to the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, where several hundred settlers live in illegal outposts next to more than 200,000 Palestinians. The Israeli military protects the settlers and has established a network of checkpoints to restrict Palestinian movement.

Some sections of Palestinian society criticised the group for its attendance, hoping that a slew of acts would cancel their appearances. But the Icelandic group said that Iceland would have sent another group and wanted to use the platform to send a message in support of the Palestinians.

During the same event guest performer Madonna also provoked controversy when her dancers carried Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes.

"It was a mistake," said Israel's Culture Minister Miri Regev. "You cannot mix politics at a cultural event, with all due respect to Madonna."

Israel hosted this year's event because of the victory of their singer Netta Barzilai the previous year.

Next year's Eurovision Song Contest will be held in the Netherlands.