Dutch Eurovision act Joost Klein barred from dress rehearsal as investigation launched

The European Broadcast Union may have outlined its strong stance against political messages at Eurovision, but as ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar reports, the show is unlikely to pass without some controversy

The Dutch Eurovision act Joost Klein will not perform in a second dress rehearsal for the grand final while an investigation into an unspecified “incident” continues, the organisers have said.

A week of controversy and protest ended with crisis meetings and the mysterious suspension of the 26-year-old rapper from the Netherlands, who qualified at the Malmö Arena venue in Sweden on Thursday evening with his up-tempo song Europapa, a tribute to his late parents.

Israel's participation in Eurovision as the war in Gaza rages has meant politics has dominated an event which strives to be apolitical, with pro-Palestinian protests calling for a boycott of the competition.

Pro-Palestinian protesters opposing Israel's participation take part in a protest outside Eurovision Village in Malmö, Sweden. Credit: AP

There will be more protests on Saturday when Israel entrant Eden Golan takes part in the final in Malmö. But Friday night's events have raised the question as to whether the Dutch act will be there too.

Golan, whose emotional song Hurricane was reworked from a previous track called October Rain, which was thought to reference the Hamas attacks on Israel, was earlier asked by a reporter whether her participation risked the safety of the other acts and the public in the wake of protests.

Golan was advised that she didn't need to answer the question, before Dutch contestant Klein shouted "why not?"

A statement from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) released on Friday evening said: “The investigation into the incident with the Dutch artist in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is still ongoing.

“Discussions are also taking place between the EBU and Avrotros, the Dutch participating broadcaster.

“While the investigation continues, the EBU has decided that Joost Klein will not perform during dress rehearsal two of the competition, which is voted on by juries in the 37 participating countries.

“His performance from semi-final two will be used instead.”

As the controversary has mounted, the odds of Israel winning the contest have been slashed.

The Eurovision Broadcasting Union (EBU) had earlier cancelled a media conference with UK entry Olly Alexander and the other acts who did not need to compete in the semi-finals.

The UK is within the 'Big 5' - which also includes France, Germany, Italy and Spain - who automatically qualify for the final every year.

People protest at a Pro-Palestinian demonstration for excluding Israel from Eurovision ahead of the second semi-final. Credit: AP

Thousands of protesters waving green, white, black and red Palestinian flags packed out Stortorget Square during the semi-finals, before a planned march though the city towards the Eurovision venue.

Police estimated around 10,000 to 12,000 people took part in the semi-final protest on Thursday, and among them was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The authorities said nine people were warned about “disturbing the public order” and one man was arrested after allegedly carrying a knife and some tools in his bag.

Eden Golan of Israel performing the song Hurricane during the dress rehearsal for the final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo. Credit: AP

Number 10 weighed in on the demonstrations, with a Downing Street spokeswoman saying that the prime minister "thinks that these protests are wrong and some of the scenes we’ve seen have been outrageous”.

Rishi Sunak's spokeswoman also said he understands the right to “peaceful protest”, though he thinks “it is wrong and unfair to call for a boycott of their act”.

Several Eurovision artists released a joint statement in March backing “an immediate and lasting ceasefire” in Gaza but they refused to boycott the event.

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