The Israel Law Centre Shurat HaDin have stated that they want Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to stop Icelandic band Hatari from being allowed to enter the country. The band is due to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv in May this year.
See Also: Music in Iceland
The Tel Aviv based non-governmental organisation say that the reason for their demand is that they believe the Icelandic band will use the contest to criticise Israel’s policies.
A law which passed in Israel in 2011 allows the nation to penalise anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, without needing to prove that the country sustained damage as a result.
Hatari did release a statement that had some political weight to it; however, this was before the semi-finals of the Icelandic national selection and was not, at the time, an official part of the competition.
The group have not made a statement specifically about politics since they were officially chosen to represent Iceland at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, which means they are still not in breach of the contest rules.
In the case against Hatari, Shurat HaDin also cited the fact that the band challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to an Icelandic wrestling match.
This has come as a surprise to many Icelanders, as the challenge was seen in Iceland as a kind of ‘adorable’ declaration of good sportsmanship and a chance to display Icelandic culture on the world’s stage. The band have stated that this challenge was neither violent or a threat.
The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has strict rules in regards to politics in the event. The rules state that the ESC shall in no case be politicised and/or instrumentalised. This rule relates to song lyrics, and also any press conferences that take place within any official ESC premises or event.
This rule can appear to be in a grey area at times, like in 2016 when Ukraine won with Jamala’s song ‘1944’ which had lyrics that hinted at a past Russian invasion of the Crimea region.
Participants of the competition may have to adhere to these rules, but they are still allowed to voice their own opinions on things outside of the official competition.
In 2012 Sweden’s Loreen criticised the host country Azerbaijan’s treatment of LGBT people. During a press conference, the ‘Euphoria’ singer said, “Human rights are violated in Azerbaijan every day. One should not be silent about such things.”
The singer was neither denied entry to the country nor disqualified for her comments and eventually won the competition.
The governing body of the Eurovision Song Contest, The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), has stated that they expect the 2019 competition to be inclusive as always, and they hope the broadcasting organisation of the host country will respect the freedom of all of the participating delegations and artists.
The head of Eurovision, Jon Ola Sand, sent a letter last year to Prime Minister Netanyahu on behalf of the EBU. In the letter, Sand demanded that throughout the competition, neither participants or tourists are to be denied entry for political reasons. He also asked that journalists, participants and fans be allowed freedom of movement throughout Israel without restrictions.
At this time, no official ban has been put in place by the Israeli government on the band Hatari, and they are still planning on representing Iceland. They’ll be performing in the first semi final of the Eurovision Song Contest on May 14.