Eurovision scrutinises Israel’s song lyrics amid Gaza furore

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 6:50 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Eurovision Song Contest organisers are scrutinising the Israeli submission after lyrics leaked to the media appeared to refer to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the Gaza war.

Eurovision, which this year will take place on May 7-11 in the Swedish city of Malmo, bills itself as a non-political event and can disqualify contestents deemed to have breached that rule.

Israel’s entry, “October Rain”, is a ballad sung by female soloist Eden Golan.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, it includes lines such as “There’s no air left to breathe” and “They were all good children, each one of them” – apparent allusions to people who holed up in shelters as Hamas gunmen carried out a killing and kidnapping spree at an outdoor music festival and other sites.

The song also contains a reference to “flowers” which, Israel Hayom said, is military code for war fatalities. A source in national broadcaster Kan, which sponsors the Israeli entry, confirmed to Reuters that the leaked lyrics were accurate.

In a statement, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, said it is “in the process of scrutinising the lyrics, a process which is confidential between the EBU and the broadcaster until a final decision has been taken.

“If a song is deemed unacceptable for any reason, broadcasters are then given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, as per the rules of the contest,” the EBU added.

Kan said it was “in dialogue” with the EBU about the issue.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar said in a post on X that any decision to disqualify “October Rain” would be “scandalous”.

He denied that the song is political, saying it “gives voice to the feelings of the people and the country nowadays”.

The annual Eurovision contest has been won four times by Israel, where it is popular and often viewed as a barometer of the country’s standing internationally.

(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Mark Heinrich)