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Israel qualify for Eurovision final after public vote as Greta Thunberg and Irish fans among protesters in Malmo


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The environmentalist’s mother represented Sweden at the competition in 2009Ireland’s head of delegation says the country would never boycott the event Demonstrators from around Europe joined the protests

The acts to get through to the Grand Final on Saturday night from Thursday’s semi-final were: Latvia; Austria; Netherlands; Norway; Israel; Greece; Estonia; Georgia; Switzerland; and Armenia.

The second semi-final included dancing skeletons, the return of the keytar and techno dancing.

Estonia’s 5MIINUST X Puuluup were an audience favourite – the title of their song translates to (We Still) Don’t Know Anything About (These) Drugs.

The non-binary Swiss act Nemo is another bookmakers favourite to make it to the top five.

Their song the Code was about self-exploration and has been dubbed an ‘operatic dance track with rap’ or ‘’Popera’’

When Israel took to the stage there was both cheers and booing.

Some people walked out of the arena during Eden Golan’s performance including former Eurovision contestants Jedward.

Afterwards they said music should bring people together. “I feel like it should be an equal playing field and if Russia is not allowed to participate then Israel shouldn’t be allowed to either.”

This came after demonstrations taking place in Malmo, Sweden, as the second batch of Eurovision semi-finalists took the stage on Thursday evening.

Ahead of the event, a number of protests and solidarity demonstrations had taken part in the city.

There was a heavy police presence at the demonstrations, and some people taking part were dragged away from outside the Eurovision venue.

The largest of the events was a demonstration held in Stortorget, the oldest town square in Malmo.

Protesters chanted “songs and glitter” should not “hide this genocide”, and “Eurovision shame on you!”

Israel denies it is carrying out a genocide in Gaza.

Environmentalist Greta Thunberg also attended the rally and told reporters: “Young people are leading the way and showing the world how we should react to this.”

Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman, competed in the Eurovision in 2009 with the song La Voix.

Protesters march during the Stop Israel demonstration against Israel’s participation in the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Malmo, Sweden. Reuters

Amongst those marching was the group ‘Eurovision Fans Against Genocide’.

One of the members, Rory Flynn, originally from Kildare but now living in Austria, said: “We are appalled it has gotten to this stage and that the EBU is allowing Israel to participate with that song.”

“We have decided we want to make our voices heard on this issue.”

Seamus White from Dublin said: “The atmosphere of this year’s Eurovision is completely different. There is not the same sense of joy, there has been discord.”

On Wednesday evening the Israeli representative Eden Golan performed at the dress rehearsal of the semi-final. She was booed when she took to the stage.

Eurovision fan Josslpin Pioffet was in the arena that evening, and at yesterday’s demonstration.

Demonstrators in Malmo. Photo: Kirsty Blake Knox

“There was some boo-ing, and some cheering and some people protested silently: they turned their backs, covered their ears and bowed their heads during Israel’s song,” he said.

Sara Robeh, who is of Palestinian heritage and living in Malmo, said it was meaningful to see thousands of people showing up in the city in an act of solidarity for the Palestinian city.

“It means a lot that so many people support Palestine. We are against people killing people, we are against people killing kids for no reason and that’s why we are here. The genocide has to stop.”

Klaus Goldschmitt had travelled from Copenhagen and was part of the group Jews for Just Peace.

A pro-Israel demonstration to pay tribute to Israel’s participant Eden Golan in the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Malmo, Sweden. Reuters

He said a cultural boycott was important as it would show Israel how much the world objected to its actions.

Later in the day in another area of town, a pro-Israeli demonstration was held.

On Wednesday, the Israeli director of delegation told some press gathered in the media centre: “It is a mission for us to be here and to hear our voices. The song is so accurate. ‘I am still broken from this hurricane’ – we’ve been through awful things this year.”

Ireland’s Bambie Thug has been criticised by campaigners for declining to boycott the event. However, during rehearsal this week, they were asked to remove Ogham writing from their body which read ‘ceasefire’ and ‘freedom’, in a nod to their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Speaking ahead of the semi-final on Thursday, Ireland’s head of delegation, Michael Kealy, said RTÉ would never consider boycotting the song contest, despite calls to do so.

“We are a public service broadcaster and we don’t take political stands on issues when it comes to things like this. The BBC don’t, French television don’t, STV don’t, no public service broadcaster in Europe would,” he said.

“Because if we withdraw, that’s the end of the Olympics, that’s the end of the Euros, that’s the end of the World Cup. All the fun in our lives would be taken away.”

He also spoke about Ireland making it through to the Grand Final.

“I think our act is so different and unique and it is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea just judging by what people say online but you can’t ignore it. You cannot ignore it. It is a piece of art, it is a piece of theatre. Bambie is a true artist and I think they are going to be a global star no matter what happens here on Saturday.”

While Bambie was not at the arena last night, there was Irish representation on stage as songwriter Liam Geddes has written the Latvian entry Hollow.

Bambie Thug performing at the Eurovision. Photo: Andres Poveda.

One of the most energetic performances of the night was Netherland’s act Joost with his song Europapa.

The pulsating techno track saw the artist wearing giant blue shoulderpads and dancing about the stage.

Despite the comedic staging, the song has a surprisingly poignant underlying message.

Performer Joost’s father died of cancer when he was 12 and shortly afterwards his mother died of cardiac arrest.

The song is about an orphan traveling around Europe and trying to discover who they are.

“When I was younger I promised my parents one day I would go to Eurovision but unfortunately they passed away when I was around 12 so it’s an ode to my dad and mum.”

The non binary Swiss act Nemo was another bookmakers favourite, their song the Code was about self exploration and contained rap. It has been dubbed an ‘operatic dance track with rap’ or ‘Popera’.

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