Eurovision: Thousands protest against Israel's entry in Malmo

Protesters wave Palestinian flags during the 'Stop Israel' demonstration in Malmo
Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest Israel's participation in Eurovision [EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock]

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered on Thursday in the Swedish city of Malmo to protest against Israel's participation in the Eurovision song contest.

It came as the city hosted the competition's second semi-final, in which Israel's entrant Eden Golan performed.

On Wednesday, Ms Golan was booed during a rehearsal of her song Hurricane.

But the crowd's response was more mixed on Thursday, with cheers and some boos.

Ahead of Ms Golan's performance, pro-Palestinian protesters and a smaller number of pro-Israeli protesters took to the streets.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg was among those attending the pro-Palestinian demonstration, which Swedish police estimated had as many as 12,000 participants.

She told the BBC that there was a "moral obligation to act" and to speak out against Israel's military operation in Gaza.

"If we are tens of thousands of people flooding the streets of Malmo when Eurovision is taking place, saying we will not accept this to continue, then it's a very strong signal - and it does make a difference," Ms Thunberg said.

Another protester, Matilda Varatta, told Reuters news agency that she would like to see Israel disqualified as Russia was in 2022 following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"It's not true that the Eurovision is not political, it has always been political, and it will always be," she said.

Earlier, Ms Golan said that she was "proud to represent my country" and that "nothing will deter" her.

Eden Golan blows a kiss to the crowd after her performance in the second Eurovision semi-final on Thursday
Eden Golan performed in the second Eurovision semi-final on Thursday [EPA]

"I'm focused on music, on the good energy, and there are so many people supporting me, and I feel like I have such an honour to represent my country, especially in these times".

Cheers and some booing was heard during her semi-final performance on Thursday evening.

In a video message posted on social media before the event, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Ms Golan good luck and said she had "already won" after "successfully confronting" what he described as a "horrible wave of antisemitism" in Sweden.

At the pro-Israel demonstration, people could be heard singing Hurricane in support of Ms Golan amid a significant police presence.

"I'm not that interested in Eurovision," one demonstrator, Yael Sages Wahlström, told Sweden's Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

"But since there has been such a huge storm of hate against Israel, I wanted to support".

The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, which organises the country's contest entry, said it asked the European Broadcasting Union to prevent a repeat of Wednesday's booing incident.

The Swedish authorities said they had heightened security in place and were prepared for potential unrest.

Israel is currently engaged in a military campaign in Gaza, which they launched as a response to Hamas' cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

About 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

More than 34,900 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory's Hamas-run health ministry.