Israel heads to Eurovision final, despite protests

Israeli singer Eden Golan has qualified for the final of the Eurovision Song Contest after a public vote.

Her victory came hours after thousands of pro-Palestinian protestors gathered in the streets of Malmö, Sweden, where the contest is being held, to show their support for Gaza.

A night before, the 20-year-old singer had been booed during dress rehearsals. There was a mixture of cheering and booing again during Thursday's semi-final.

Speaking after the show, she said she was "overwhelmed with emotions".

"It is truly such an honour to be here on stage, representing [Israel] with pride," she said.

"I’m so grateful for everyone who voted and took part in supporting us, and me."

Eden Golan
Eden Golan blew a kiss to supporters in the audience after her performance [Getty Images]

Who qualified from the second semi-final?

The 10 acts who succeeded in Thursday's public vote were:

  1. Latvia

  2. Austria

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Norway

  5. Israel

  6. Greece

  7. Estonia

  8. Switzerland

  9. Georgia

  10. Armenia

Which means the six countries eliminated were Malta, Albania, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark and San Marino.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Malmö on Thursday
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Malmö on Thursday [Reuters]

Israel's participation in Eurovision has been a source of controversy amid rising civilian deaths and a worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, as the war between Israel and Hamas enters its seventh month.

Smoke canisters in the colours of the Palestinian flag were set off in Malmö’s central square on Thursday afternoon, along with chants of "Free Palestine".

A smaller demonstration in support of Israel also took place.

Although the protests were largely peaceful, there are armed police outside the hotel where Golan is staying, and she has been confined to her room when she is not on stage.

Eden Golan celebrates at Eurovision
The singer celebrated her victory in the public vote with a message of love [Getty Images]

After receiving a hostile reception at dress rehearsals, the singer said "nothing will deter" her from taking part in the contest.

And ahead of the semi-final, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Golan a message of support via social media.

"Eden, I want to wish you success," he said in Hebrew.

"You know what? You've already succeeded - because you are not only competing in Eurovision in a proud and very impressive way, you are successfully facing an ugly wave of antisemitism - and you are standing up to it and representing the State of Israel with great honour.

"So what a blessing, and know that when people yell 'boo' at you, we shout 'hooray'".

Swiss singer Nemo is one of the favourites to win [Getty Images]

According to bookmakers, Golan's song is fifth favourite to win the contest on Saturday night.

Topping the odds is Croatian act Baby Lasagna, whose riotous dance anthem Rim Tim Tagi Dim qualified from the first semi-final on Tuesday.

Switzerland's Nemo, whose operatic pop song The Code is the second favourite, was one of the 10 acts who were voted through after Thursday's show.

The singer put on one of the night's most impressively athletic performances, dancing on a rotating turntable while they sang about coming to terms with their non-binary identity

Other artists who qualified included Austria's Kaleen, with her techno anthem We Will Rave, and Armenia's Ladaniva, whose sassy and exuberant song, Jako, brought a Balkan folk flavour to the contest.

Greek singer Marina Zatti also made it through, despite suffering pharyngitis and a fever in the run-up to her performance.

Meanwhile, Latvia and Georgia broke an eight-year losing streak - sending their contestants to the final for the first time since 2016.

Swedish trio Herrey's closed the semi-final, 40 years after winning the contest [EPA]

The second semi-final also saw performances from former Eurovision winners Helena Paparizou, Charlotte Perelli and Sertab Erener - who led the crowd in a singalong medley of their winning entries during the interval.

Host Petra Mede also sang a tongue-in-cheek number that boasted about Sweden's seven Eurovision victories. The sequence also featured a reprise performance from last year's runner-up, Käärijä, in all his tongue-waggling glory.

And the show finished with Swedish pop trio Herrey's, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their nonsensical classic Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley - which won the contest in 1984.

Saturday's final will take place from 20:00 BST, with the UK represented by former Years & Years star Olly Alexander.

The show will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Radio 2.