Preparing for anti-Israel protests ahead of the Eurovision contest – 2024-04-26 16:59:10

Sweden is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 in Malmö from May 7 to 11, and expectations are high for a spectacular event. However, visitors face increased security measures since the country joined NATO.

The competition, the largest of its kind in the world, takes place in Malmö from May 7-11 and is expected to draw 100,000 visitors to Sweden’s third-largest city, which has a large Muslim population.

Organizers are planning a special tribute to Swedish group ABBA, who won Eurovision 50 years ago. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the competition, has opposed calls for the Israel to be excluded due to the war in Gaza.

Controversy over the conflict has already affected various cultural events across Europe. The biggest focus is expected to be on Israeli contestant Eden Golan and her song ‘Hurricane’, as several large pro-Palestinian protests are planned outside the Malmö competition venue. Israel was allowed to compete after agreeing to change the lyrics of the original song “October Rain”, which the EBU said was a reference to the October 7 attack on Hamas in Israel.

The EBU describes Eurovision as a non-politicized event and insists the competition is between public broadcasters, not governments.

However, it banned Russia from Eurovision in 2022 after several European public broadcasters called for the country to be banned following its invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden is hosting the annual competition for the seventh time, after Swedish singer Lorin won last year’s contest in Liverpool with the song “Tattoo”.

‘HIGH THREAT LEVEL’

Visitors from 89 countries expected in Malmö will have to go through airport-like security checks when entering various areas in the city.

“There is a high level of threat combined with a lot of people,” said Per-Erik Ebstal, Malmö’s security director.

Organizers are facing the risk of the protests escalating into violent incidents, with increased terrorist threats in the country, but also tension with Russia following Sweden’s accession to NATO.

In the center of Malmö there are official Eurovision posters, but also protest posters with the same design, with the word Eurovision replaced by the word “genocide” and the phrase: “Israel out of Eurovision or Eurovision out of Malmo” .

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Orva Kandura, a Palestinian living in Malmö and one of the organizers of the protests, said the Israeli delegation was “here to represent Israel and their government, which is currently committing genocide.”

Israel denies any accusation of genocide in Gaza in its war against Hamas.

Police say security measures will be tighter than when Sweden last hosted the competition in 2016.

“The situation around the world is complicated and also the security for Sweden is different,” said Petra Stenkula, police chief in Malmö. “We’re ready for anything that might happen.”

According to protothema, Sweden joined NATO in March, two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced it to rethink its national security policy. Russia has threatened to take unspecified “political and military-technical countermeasures” in response.

Gang crime in Sweden’s biggest cities, including Malmö, has also been a problem for years, fueled by the drug trade.

Eurovision starts on May 7 with the first semi-final. The second semi-final will follow two days later and the final on Saturday 11 May.

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