Israel will compete in Eurovision after lyric change despite song initially being barred

Israel's 2023 entry Noa Kirel pictured on stage last year. Credit: AP

Israel will be competing in the Eurovision Song Contest, despite its entry to be banned over the lyrics , The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) can confirm.

Initially the song, by Eden, called October Rain, was reportedly rejected as it contained political messages - which is against Eurovision's strict entry rules.

Israel has requested the lyrics of its leading submission for Eurovision to be changed following the song's ban for breaking rules on political neutrality.

The lyrics included words such as, "They were all good children, each one of them," seemingly referencing the Hamas' October 7 incursion into Israel when 1,200 people were killed.

On Thursday, Eurovision's governing board, decided to accept the altered song, now called 'Hurricane' for the upcoming competition after what is described as "scrutiny of the lyrics."

It was agreed that 'Hurricane' met the necessary criteria for participation in accordance with the rules of the competition.”

The national broadcaster, Kan, had vowed not to alter the lyrics of the song October Rain, which is set to be performed by 20-year-old Eden Golan.

But Israeli President Isaac Herzog said "necessary adjustments" must be made to ensure his country can compete in the song contest, held in Malmö, Sweden, in May.

Israel's place in the 2024 competition was called into question, after country's called for it to be banned from the event because of ongoing events in Gaza.

"The president emphasised that at this time in particular, when those who hate us seek to push aside and boycott the state of Israel from every stage, Israel must sound its voice with pride and its head high and raise its flag in every world forum, especially this year," Kan said.

In the statement, the Israeli broadcaster said it had contacted Golan, as well as the lyricist of the second-place finalist, Dance Forever, to revise their lyrics, before a decision will be made over which song to send to the Eurovision committee.

Dance Forever's lyrics is also being rejected due to what the broadcaster says are references to the Nova Music festival - one of the deadly sites of Hamas' attack on October 7.

Fans are planning to boycott the contest this year in protest against Israel competing amid a spiraling civilian death toll in Gaza.

Israel made its debut at the contest in 1973 as the first non-European country. It was granted permission to participate as it was a member of the European Broadcast Union.

But anger has grown over Israel's military actions in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people have been killed, many of them women and children.

The UK's Hannah Waddingham and Graham Norton at Eurovision in Liverpool last year. Credit: AP

Iceland's broadcaster has not decided on whether to enter, "regarding Israel's participation in the contest, despite the war in Gaza," the Icelandic Broadcasting Authority, RUV said in a statement.

Ireland's national broadcaster RTE received hundreds of emails urging a boycott in a stance against the conflict, but will be competing.

More than 1,000 Swedish musicians - including Dancing On My Own singer Robyn - have accused Eurovision organisers of "double standards" in an open letter.

Britain's entrant, Olly Alexander, has also taken a public stance against Israel, and signed an open letter from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4London, calling for a ceasefire and for aid to be allowed inside Gaza.

Both semi-finals and the grand final for the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Saturday, May 11.

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