‘October Rain,’ Israel’s Proposed Eurovision Entry, Causes a Storm

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Even before this week’s uproar, Israel’s participation in this year’s Eurovision, which will be held in Malmo, Sweden, had cast a shadow over the event. As the death toll from Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has mounted, hundreds of musicians in countries including Sweden, Denmark and Iceland have signed petitions urging the European Broadcasting Union to ban Israel, following a similar decision in 2022 to ban Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

The European Broadcasting Union has repeatedly dismissed the comparison between Israel and Russia. “We understand the concerns and deeply held views around the current conflict in the Middle East,” the union said in a statement this month, but Eurovision was “not a contest between governments.”

At this year’s Eurovision, Israel will be represented by Eden Golan, a 20-year-old pop singer who was selected earlier this month when she won a TV talent show called “Rising Star,” singing an Aerosmith cover. During that show’s final, Golan referred to the roughly 130 hostages Israel believes Hamas is holding in Gaza. “We won’t truly be OK until everyone returns home,” she said.

Which song Golan will sing at Eurovision, however, is not only up to her. Kan has been evaluating potential tracks, and although it submitted “October Rain” for approval, the broadcaster is not scheduled to officially announce Israel’s song until March 10, allowing time for it to be changed, if necessary.

Throughout Eurovision’s history, the European Broadcasting Union has occasionally intervened when it detected political overtones in proposed entries, said Chris West, the author of a history of Eurovision. In 2009, he said, Georgia pulled out of the contest because the organizers objected to a song called “We Don’t Wanna Put In.” The song was seen as a statement against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, West said.

And in 2015, Armenia changed the title of its entry “Don’t Deny,” because it was widely interpreted as a reference to Turkey’s denial of the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians. The song was renamed “Face the Shadow,” West said.

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