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Queer Eurovision Fans Resolutely Boycott 2024 Contest Amid Israel-Hamas Turmoil –

A Call for Solidarity with Palestine

The 68th Eurovision Song Contest, set to air live from Malmö, Sweden, on Saturday, May 10th, 2024, has been mired in controversy. Many queer fans have decided to boycott the event due to Israel’s participation amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Pro-Palestine groups have urged contestants, including UK representative Olly Alexander and others, to withdraw from the competition in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.


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Protests and Precedents

Protests have erupted outside the Swedish venue, with demonstrators voicing their opposition to Israel’s involvement. This call for boycott comes in the wake of the October 7th, 2023, attack on Israel by Hamas, which triggered the current conflict in Gaza, claiming over 35,000 Palestinian lives to date. Notably, in 2022, Russia was disqualified from participating in Eurovision following its invasion of Ukraine, setting a precedent for excluding states engaged in military conflicts.

The Queers for Palestine Movement

Eurovision 2024 boycotts 3

Approximately 450 queer artists, public figures, and organizations have joined forces with Queers for Palestine, calling on Olly Alexander and other contestants to withdraw from the competition. In response, Alexander and fellow performers, including Ireland’s non-binary artist Bambie Thug, issued a statement urging for an “immediate and lasting” ceasefire in Gaza.

Censorship Allegations

Bambie Thug, the first Irish act to qualify for the grand final since 2018, claimed that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) forced them to remove a face tattoo reading “ceasefire” in the ancient Celtic language Ogham before their performance during the semi-finals.

Voices of Dissent

18-year-old activist and journalist Alex Shah from Baku, Azerbaijan, shared their emotional connection to Eurovision, describing it as the “only tolerant and inclusive television in post-Soviet countries” and their “first and only place of support since childhood.” Shah believes that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “should not be legitimized” by allowing Israel to participate in such events.

“Eurovision 2024 broke my heart by banning symbols representing Palestine. They even demanded that… Bambie Thug remove the ‘ceasefire’ sign on their face, and, unfortunately, they did. Eurovision doesn’t have to be a platform supporting Palestine, but tolerating peace can also be a tool to protect freedom of expression,” Shah stated.

In Sheffield, 22-year-old Q Cummings views Eurovision as a “really camp and fun way of feeling a sense of unity with other European countries and the larger LGBTQ+ community.” Cummings compared Israel’s participation to Russia’s ban in 2022, arguing that allowing Israel’s involvement while engaged in military conflict is “saying on an international stage that we know how many people are dying in Gaza every day, but we still think [Israel] should be given access to this platform – which feels incredibly hypocritical.”

Cummings’ stance hardened after Israel resubmitted its entry “October Rain” with political messages related to the conflict, despite the EBU’s initial request for revisions. “The level of effort going into silencing anyone who could possibly even express solidarity with the Palestinian people has become actively malicious,” Cummings said.

Calls for Cancellation

In Manchester, 34-year-old Ali Saeedian, a casual Eurovision fan since 2012, believes the contest should be canceled indefinitely. He argues that allowing it to proceed as normal shows governments “do not put any value on human life.”

“The policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government should not be legitimized by [Israel being allowed to] participate in such events,” Shah believes.

“My resolve only strengthened when we heard about performers being banned from expressing any signs of solidarity with Palestine at all. When you ban one side of a conflict from being heard or even referenced, but allow the other a stage and air time, you are not being neutral, you are actively participating in the suppression of people in need,” Cummings stated.

Editorial Comment:

“The Eurovision Song Contest has long been a celebration of unity, diversity, and artistic expression. However, the ongoing controversy surrounding Israel’s participation amidst the tragic conflict in Gaza has cast a shadow over this year’s event. While opinions may differ, it is crucial to consider the human rights implications and the voices of those calling for solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Ultimately, the organizers face a delicate balance between upholding the contest’s values and addressing the legitimate concerns raised by protesters and boycotters.” – Dr. Emma Thompson, Professor of Human Rights and International Law, University of Cambridge

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