Swedish pop star Eric Saade hits back at EBU criticism of Palestinian scarf

AFP/The Local
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Swedish pop star Eric Saade hits back at EBU criticism of Palestinian scarf
Eric Saade performing his song "Popular" as one of the opening acts of Tuesday's Eurovision semifinal while wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf on his wrist. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Swedish singer Eric Saade accused Eurovision Song Contest organisers of 'racism' after they criticised him for wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh during his semi-final opening act.


Saade proved the most controversial act of the evening, which saw Ukraine and Croatia advance to the finals.

The whole contest has been clouded by the participation of Israel, which has faced criticism over humanitarian conditions in Gaza amidst the war against Hamas.

Saade, whose father is of Palestinian origin, wore a keffiyeh scarf – a Palestinian and Arab symbol – on his arm. He had warned before the show that he wanted to make some kind of protest against Israel being allowed to take part.

Swedish broadcaster SVT and the main organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), condemned his gesture.

"It is regrettable that he used his participation in this way," SVT's executive producer for the contest, Ebba Adielsson, told AFP.

EBU said in a statement: "The Eurovision Song Contest is a live TV show. All performers are made aware of the rules of the contest, and we regret that Eric Saade chose to compromise the non-political nature of the event."


Saade hit back at the criticism.

"I got that scarf from my dad as a little boy, to never forget where the family comes from. I didn't know then that it one day would be called a 'political symbol'. That's like calling the Dala horse a political symbol. To my eyes, it's nothing but racism. I just wanted to be inclusive and carry something that's real to me – but EBU seems to think that my ethnicity is controversial. That says nothing about me, but everything about them. I repeat this year's Eurovision Song Contest slogan: United by music," Saade responded in a text message to SVT.

Other acts in the contest have made calls for a ceasefire or comments against Israel but were told not to show political messages during their performances.

Irish entry Bambie Thug told reporters on Tuesday they were "ordered" by the EBU to remove pro-Palestine messages written in the ancient Irish alphabet Ogham on their face and legs during the semi-final.

Because of security fears, Israel's competitor Eden Golan has reportedly been told to stay in her hotel room in Malmö before competing in the second semi-final on Thursday.

Demonstrations calling for Israel to be excluded are expected to be held in the Swedish city around the performance.

Among the qualifiers were Ukrainians Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil with their rap song "Teresa and Maria". Croatia's Baby Lasagna, singing "Rim Tim Tagi Dim", one of the early favourites, also made Saturday's final.

Serbia, Portugal, Slovenia, Lithuania, Finland, Cyprus, Ireland and Luxembourg were all voted places in the final.

Sweden as the reigning winners, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – the main contributors to the EBU – all get automatic places in Saturday's final.


Comments (1)

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Steuart Wright 2024/05/08 21:05
I stand with Eric. Good job

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