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Finnish artists sign petition calling for Israel to be banned from Eurovision

More than 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals have signed a petition urging for Israel to be banned from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Organisers of the contest faced backlash and boycott calls in December after allowing Israel to participate in 2024 competition – which is due to take place in Malmö, Sweden from May 7-11 – despite the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

Since Hamas forces launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, killing 1,200 people, at least 22,835 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, amounting to one per cent of the territory’s total pre-war population of 2.27million (per CNN).

The petition urges a ban over alleged “war crimes” in Gaza, adding that if Israel is not excluded, they want public broadcaster Yle to withdraw Finland’s entry.

Yle said it is monitoring the position of the organiser of the contest, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

One of the petition’s authors, Lukas Korpelainen, told newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet (via BBC) that it was not acceptable for Israel to “take part in the Eurovision Song Contest to polish its image”.

Others who have signed the petition include Finnish artists Olavi Uusivirta, Paleface and 2011 contestant Axel Ehnström.

Eurovision 2022 Winners Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine perform on stage at Liverpool Arena on May 13, 2023 in Liverpool, England (CREDIT: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images)

Signatories have accused Yle of double standards, noting that the broadcaster was among the first to demand a ban on Russia from the 2022 contest after its invasion of Ukraine, saying “we expect the same active defending of values from Yle now as well”.

Russia was banned from competing in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, which was won by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra.

Yle representative Ville Vilén said the situation in Israel and Gaza was “not quite the same”.

“As gruesome as it is, it is not a war of inter-state aggression like between Russia and Ukraine,” he told Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

Yle’s head of communications, Jere Nurminen, told Hufvudstadsbladet the company plans to meet the petition’s authors.

Finland entry Käärijä performs ‘Cha Cha Cha’ on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 Grand Final at M&S Bank Arena on May 13, 2023 in Liverpool, England (CREDIT: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images)

Last month, UK entrant Olly Alexander signed a pro-Palestine letter which called Israel an “apartheid state”.

Before he was confirmed as the UK’s Eurovision entry, Alexander had signed an open letter from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4London, the letter condemned “Zionist propaganda” amid the ongoing conflict.

Back in November, meanwhile, Pulp, Lucy Dacus, Sleater-Kinney and more were among the thousands of musicians who signed an open letter calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that an Israeli soldier had been killed in Gaza weeks after auditioning for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest. It came just days after Yotam Haim, the drummer for Israeli heavy metal band Persephore, was killed by the Israel Defense Forces after being mistaken for a Hamas fighter.

In other recent news from the Eurovision Song Contest, organisers previously confirmed that The Caribbean would be participating in this year’s competition.

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