Eurovision organiser vows to remove Palestinian flags or symbols

Eurovision organiser vows to remove Palestinian flags or symbols

Organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest said on Thursday they reserve the right to remove any Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols at the show next week in Sweden.

The announcement came amid heightened tensions surrounding Israel’s participation in the annual music competition over its military campaign in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian groups are expected to stage large protests in Malmö to raise awareness of their cause.

At least 34,596 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory during almost seven months of war between Israel and Hamas. The majority of whom are women and children.

Michelle Roverelli, the head of communications for the European Broadcasting Union that runs the show, said ticket holders are only allowed to bring and display flags representing countries that take part in the event, as well as the rainbow-coloured flag.

The Geneva-based EBU reserves the right “to remove any other flags or symbols, clothing, items and banners being used for the likely purpose of instrumentalising the TV shows,” she told the Associated Press in a text message.

Swedish news agency TT reported that anyone who tries to bring a Palestinian flag or a sign with a political message will be stopped at the entrance by guards.

Martin Österdahl, the contest's executive supervisor, told TT that “these rules are the same as last year. There is no change.”

Netta Barzilai, who won the contest representing Israel in 2018, poses for a portrait on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in New York.
Netta Barzilai, who won the contest representing Israel in 2018, poses for a portrait on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in New York. - Associated Press

National flags are a common sight during the contest as fans cheer on their country’s acts.

The glitzy gala, which draws hundreds of millions of viewers each year, is held this year from 7-11 May in Malmö in southern Sweden, following last year's victory by Loreen for its performance of “Tattoo”.

Winners earn the right for their country to host the following year's event: Sweden is set to host for a record-equalling 7th time.

Swedish police have warned security will be tight, citing a threat of terrorism in the wealthy Nordic country.

Pro-Palestinian activists who want Israel - a former winner - out of the Eurovision Song Contest have planned large rallies in downtown Malmö, several kilometres from the Malmö Arena contest venue.

Israel’s national security council on Thursday issued a warning urging people to reconsider travel to Malmö, saying it is “a focus for anti-Israel protests”.

“These developments raise the tangible concern that terrorists will exploit the protest and the anti-Israel atmosphere to carry out an attack on Israelis who will arrive for the Eurovision,” it claimed.

On Thursday, Swedish police said they granted permission to demonstrators planning to burn a copy of the Quran in Malmö before the contest.

Such rallies are allowed in Sweden. Police need to cite specific grounds, such as risks to public safety if they want to reject a permit for a demonstration or public gathering.

Last year, Sweden raised its terror threat level following a series of burnings of Islam's holy book that triggered protests in the Muslim world.

In recent weeks, spillover reaction around the world to the nearly 7-month war between Israel and Hamas has fanned large protests on US university campuses and beyond.