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British Palestinian who fled Gaza but lost 200 friends and family calls for Eurovision boycott because of Israel singer

10 May 2024, 15:23

British Palestinian man is trying to get pubs to boycott Eurovision

By Kit Heren

A British Palestinian man who escaped Gaza during the conflict has called for pubs to boycott Eurovision because an Israeli singer is taking part.

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Israeli singer Eden Golan made it through to the Eurovision final on Saturday, despite huge crowds screaming outside her hotel.

Mohammad Ghalayini told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty that he had been organising a letter-writing scheme to ask pubs in Manchester not to show Eurovision because of her participation.

He said he asked pubs to "consider that Israel is engaged in a very brutal war against my people."

He added: "I myself escaped, quite miraculously, I am lucky to be here right now."

Read more: Israel’s Eurovision singer Eden Golan ordered to stay in her hotel room for her safety during pro-Palestine protest

Read more: Dutch Eurovision act under investigation and suspended from rehearsals following 'incident'

Eden Golan
Eden Golan. Picture: Getty

"And in that context, it's important to note that it cannot be business as usual in terms of the acceptance of Israel as a participant in an event like Eurovision."

Mr Ghalayini said he compared Israel's participation in Eurovision to Russia, which was barred from taking part after it invaded Ukraine in 2022.

He added that he had asked pubs to put on an 'alternative Eurovision', or to show the performances but to omit Israel.

Asked if it was fair to target an individual performer for the actions of her country, Mr Ghalayini said: "It's not about Eden Golan. It's about the fact that Eden Golan represents the Israeli state broadcaster... and that then means that she is a representative of Israel...

Eden Golan
Eden Golan. Picture: Alamy

He said that her performing would "allow Israel to be whitewashed or 'pinkwashed' because obviously... Eurovision has a massive following in the in the queer community."

Mr Ghalayini said: "That's the vehicle that I've been organising under here in Manchester... after I wrote to the King's Arms, I got together with a group in the queer community in Manchester, and we put together a small campaign of letter writing and saying: 'Please, will you reconsider hosting a Eurovision branded festival?'

"Because the presence of Israel is a very overt political choice."

Some have argued that Eurovision should be apolitical, but Mr Ghalayini said that "any cultural institution or any cultural event gives cultural capital to those that participate in it - and we can't ignore or deny that fact."

Mr Ghalayini detailed the impact that the war in Gaza has had on him personally.

Greta Thunberg among thousands of people protesting against Israel competing in Eurovision

"I've lost my mother's home, my grandparents' home... close to 200 friends and extended family of mine have been killed. And that's all been done by the same state that Eden Golan is representing.

Mr Ghalayini also said he "wouldn't encourage" the people protesting outside Ms Golan's hotel window, and said that the "atrocities committed by Palestinians on October 7 need to be held to account."

It comes after protesters lined the streets in Malmo to demand that Ms Golan be removed from Eurovision, including climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Ms Thunberg, 21, joined a 'Stop Israel' demonstration in the centre of the city on Thursday, with protesters calling for an 'end to genocide'.

The demonstration came before Ms Golan's performance at the second semi-final of the competition, which was met with cheers from the crowd after boos during her rehearsal.

The 20-year-old singer took to the stage on Thursday for the ballad Hurricane, which was reworked from a previous track called October Rain, believed to reference the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel last year.

The UK will be represented by Olly Alexander.

On Friday afternoon it emerged that the Netherlands' Eurovision act Joost Klein has been stopped from rehearsing by organisers over what was described as an "incident".

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