Thousands march in Sweden’s Malmo against Israel’s Eurovision participation

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched in the Swedish port city of Malmo against Israel’s participation in the pan-continental Eurovision Song Contest.

Protesters waving Palestinian flags packed the historic Stortorget square near Malmo’s 16th-century town hall before a planned march on Thursday through the city for a rally in a park several kilometres from the Eurovision venue.

Police estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 people took part. Among those in the crowd was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Israel is a terror state”, the demonstrators set off smoke flares in the Palestinian flag colours during a noisy but peaceful rally to criticise Israel and call for a ceasefire in Gaza. There was a large police presence, with a hovering helicopter, and officers on rooftops with binoculars.

A smaller pro-Israel protest was also held on Thursday in a central Malmo square.

Contest organisers, who try to keep Eurovision a nonpolitical event, have rejected calls to bar Israel over the war on Gaza.

But they told Israel to change the lyrics of its entry, originally titled October Rain in an apparent reference to the October 7 attack led by the Palestinian group Hamas. The song was renamed Hurricane and Israeli singer Eden Golan was allowed to remain in the contest.

Some audience members attending a dress rehearsal on Wednesday could be heard booing during Golan’s performance. But on Thursday she won enough viewer votes to come in the top 10 of 16 acts competing in a semifinal to secure a place in Saturday’s title competition.

Critics of the decision to let Israel compete point out that Russia was kicked out of Eurovision in 2022 after its invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus was ejected a year earlier over its government’s crackdown on dissent.

Sweden Eurovision Israel
Chanting ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ and ‘Israel is a terror state’, the demonstrators set off smoke flares in the Palestinian flag colours. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]
Sweden Eurovision Israel
Police estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 people took part in the protest. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]
Sweden Eurovision Israel
Contest organisers, who try to keep Eurovision a nonpolitical event, rejected calls to bar Israel over the conduct of its war on Gaza. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]
Sweden Eurovision Israel
Protesters hold a banner that reads ‘No To Genocide’ during a pro-Palestinian demonstration for excluding Israel from Eurovision. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]
Sweden Eurovision Israel
Critics of the decision to let Israel compete point out that Russia was kicked out of Eurovision in 2022 after its invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus was ejected a year earlier over its government’s crackdown on dissent. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]
Sweden Eurovision Israel

People carry a banner with the words in Swedish, ‘For an independent Palestine’. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]

Sweden Eurovision Israel

Hundreds of artists in Sweden and elsewhere have pushed for Israel to be blocked from taking part. [Martin Meissner/AP Photo]

(Source: AL JAZEERA)