Israel's Eurovision team accuse rivals of 'hatred'

Israel's Eden Golan during the Eurovision flag parade
Israel's Eden Golan during the Eurovision flag parade [Reuters]

The Israeli delegation at last week's Eurovision Song Contest faced "an unprecedented display of hatred" from other countries and their entrants, the national broadcaster has claimed.

This year's event was partly overshadowed by frayed tempers backstage plus protests over Israel's participation, due to the humanitarian cost of its war on Hamas.

On Thursday, a spokesman for public broadcaster Kan issued a statement to BBC News, accusing the other countries of anti-Israeli behaviour.

"This year, the Israeli delegation faced immense pressure and an unprecedented display of hatred, notably from other delegations and artists, publicly and collectively, solely because of the simple fact that we are Israelis and that we were there," it said.

"However, throughout the journey, the delegation maintained a dignified and respectful approach towards artists and other delegations, striving to foster unity around music while adhering to the competition's rules, unlike some other delegations."

After Saturday's contest, Eurovision organisers said some delegations "didn’t respect the spirit of the rules" at the event, without naming any countries.

The Israeli delegation were criticised by contestants including Ireland's Bambie Thug, who had been outspoken about its involvement.

Other participants, including the Dutch team, accused the Israeli delegation of filming them and posting clips online without their permission.

Israel was represented at the event in Malmö, Sweden, by singer Eden Golan, who received a mixture of boos and cheers from the audience. She finished fifth.

"Despite the impossible challenges, Eden Golan handled the task admirably, earning respect, and the received points from the European audience speaks for itself," Kan's statement continued.

"We could not be more proud of the result."

After the grand final, Bambie Thug, who had been outspoken in their pro-Palestinian views, accused Kan of "inciting violence" against them during its coverage.

During the first semi-final, one of the station's commentators noted that the performer had "spoken negatively about Israel", and told viewers to "prepare your curses" - thought to be a reference to a lyric in Bambie Thug's song.

"The broadcaster has disobeyed the rules and I hope next year they won’t be able to compete because of that," they told reporters after the contest.

Golan appeared to face criticisms from other contestants during a press conference on Thursday.

Greek singer Marina Satti was seen yawning and pretending to fall asleep while Golan spoke.

And when the Israeli singer was told she did not have to answer a question about whether her presence "posed a risk", the Netherlands' Joost Klein interrupted to ask: "Why not?"

Two days later, Klein was disqualified from the contest over an alleged run-in with a female member of the production crew, who made a complaint to Swedish police.

Lithuania's entrant Silvester Belt, meanwhile, said he regretted taking part in the grand final.

"Going after that country [Israel], with the crowd being so intense, was one of the worst things I had to go through," he wrote on social media.

Portugal's national broadcaster also complained to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) after there was a delay in posting its performance to YouTube after the final.

The EBU responded that the delay had been because their contestant, Iolanda, had painted designs inspired by the keffiyeh - traditional Palestinian scarves used to show support for the country - on her nails.

On Monday, the EBU issued a separate statement addressing "regret" that some delegations "didn’t respect the spirit of the rules and the competition both onsite and during their broadcasts".

It said: "We spoke to a number of delegations during the event regarding various issues that were brought to our attention.

"The EBU’s governing bodies will, together with the heads of delegations, review the events surrounding the ESC in Malmö to move forward in a positive way and to ensure the values of the event are respected by everyone."

Individual cases will be discussed at the next meeting of the event’s governing body, it added.