Swedish musicians cancel Eurovision performances over Israel's participation

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Swedish musicians cancel Eurovision performances over Israel's participation
Protesters with a sign reading "Boycott Israel" outside Malmö Town Hall on April 10th as council officials debated a citizen proposal to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision. The decision is ultimately up to the EBU. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

With less than a month until Eurovision week kicks off, artists and musicians are dropping out of events in Malmö in protest at Israel’s participation.


Last week, Malmö city council unveiled its programme for Eurovision week, including music from 90s dance icon Robin S, a concert by former Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, drag shows and two Abba tribute acts.

Since then, a number of artists who were scheduled to perform during Eurovision week have pulled out, following posts on Instagram by pro-Palestine groups BDS Sverige and Isolera Israel tagging the artists and encouraging them to cancel scheduled shows. 

BDS stands for boycott, divest and sanctions, and is part of a global pro-Palestine movement founded in 2005, calling for boycotts of Israeli companies, an end to investments in Israel, and state sanctions.

Israel was originally banned from performing in Eurovision as its original entry, October Rain, was deemed to be too political due to references to Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th last year.

In March, the European Broadcasting Union, which organises Eurovision, announced that Israel would be allowed to participate in the contest after it resubmitted an adapted version of the song.

This has led to criticism of the EBU from across Europe, with activists arguing that the move to allow Israel to participate during its ongoing war with Palestine is hypocritical given the fact that the union banned Russia from competing last year following its invasion of Ukraine.


“The most powerful use of your voice at this moment is to use it to announce your cancellation,” BDS Sverige wrote in an Instagram post addressing artists who had been scheduled to perform at events in Malmö during the week. 

“This action would speak louder than any statement of support or performative gestures on stage. Refuse to be complicit in artwashing and normalizing Israel's genocide!”

Since then, at least four of the artists tagged in BDS Sverige’s post have cancelled their shows, including Medina, who came second place in Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s Eurovision qualifiers.

Local band Nevergreens, who were due to play in Folkets Park, also announced their decision to pull out on Instagram.

“We were looking forward to playing in Folkets Park at Malmö’s event during Eurovision, alongside a many-faceted comedic lineup of Malmö culture. We believe that the free expression and exchange of culture is best for peace, but when we saw the launch and the sponsor list for our concert we felt that this wasn’t something that we could participate in,” they wrote.


Tarrabband, Crying Day Care Choir, and Klubbkören have also cancelled their shows, according to local newspaper Sydsvenskan, as well as Malmö-based Uroish, who pulled out the evening before her participation was announced at a press conference.

“When I said yes, my plan was to do a Palestinian version of [Iranian revolutionary song] Baraye, and include Palestinians in this entertainment space I had been invited to,” Uroish, who fled Iran at the age of ten alongside her family, told Sydsvenskan. “I want to mention Palestine in every official capacity I can.”

“It seems naive now, but I was sure that [Israel] wouldn’t be allowed to participate after what happened,” she told the newspaper. “When I heard that the EBU wouldn’t be stopping them, I was on tour, so I only realised when I came home that it felt completely wrong for me to take part during Eurovision. I just wanted to cry and scream,” she said.


One of the artists tagged in BDS Sverige’s post who has not decided to cancel her performance during Eurovision week is Rebecca Bergcrantz, also known as Raindear. She told Sydsvenskan that she believes Israel should be banned from the competition, but doesn’t believe individual musicians should be pressured not to perform at other events in Malmö.

“What’s happening in Palestine is heartbreaking and is breaking international law,” she told the newspaper. “But when and how you should boycott something in a modern society is very complex, because so much is wrong with our society.”

“Not everyone chooses to boycott or show political engagement in the same way. Why is my performance at Malmö city’s event more wrong than someone else being permanently employed by Malmö city council, who are organising the thing we’re expected to boycott completely? Where do you draw the line?”

She argues that it’s more effective to focus more on putting pressure on politicians or collecting money for relief organisations, and will be donating money from her record sales during Eurovision to Gaza.

“I think that will have more of an effect than if I play or not. And as a bonus, I’ll be able to pay my rent."

Malmö council has also had difficulties finding bands to perform on Eurovision Street, the stage which will take over Friisgatan in the city centre, Sydsvenskan reported back in March, as many local musicians had already announced their plans to boycott the event.

Jenny Eriksson, activity developer for folk music at the Bilda study association, was commissioned by the city of Malmö to create the programme for one of the stages on Friisgatan before choosing to drop out herself.

“People don’t want to participate because of Israel’s involvement in Eurovision,” she told Sydsvenskan. “As all the artists I wanted to book kept saying no, I felt that this wasn’t quite right. And the more I thought about it, the worse it felt to work with one of the stages at Eurovision, given Israel’s participation,” she said.




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