Every year, and this year's event in Copenhagen is no exception, geopolitics play out in some way at the Eurovision Song Contest. This time, it's the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, a member of the Danish parliament, attacked the organizers of the competition at the opening ceremony for not inviting the Palestinian Authority to participate even though Israel is, Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah reported.
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Schmidt-Nielsen, a representative of the left-wing Enhedslisten party (the Red-Green Alliance), said in an interview with DR, the public radio station of Denmark, that she had recently returned from a visit to the West Bank, where she saw what she called the "psychological pressure" applied to Palestinians by the Israel Defense Forces.
She said that though she is aware of the fact that “Eurovision is the least of the Palestinians’ worries,” inviting a Palestinian representative to the contest would send a strong message to Israel. Schmidt-Nielsen brought up that Israel participates in Eurovision even though it's not a European country. But she added that there is no need to make a fuss about that in a music competition, and that she simply doesn’t understand why the PA was not invited – as Palestine – since it is located in the same geographical area as Israel.
In response to the argument that the European song contest is not a political arena, Schmidt-Nielsen said that it certainly is a political arena if Israel is invited and Palestine is not.
Replacing the Israeli judges
Meanwhile, the European Broadcasting Union reported on the official Eurovision website that four members of the Israeli jury in the competition have been replaced. The website also said that an Albanian juror was replaced, and that a correction was made was in the name a Romanian juror.
It’s not clear why the committee members were replaced, but the Eurovision media coordinator on behalf of the European Union, Jarmo Siim, told Haaretz that the decision was made by the Israeli delegation itself. It has not yet been possible to confirm whether the judges who were replaced were disqualified by the EBU.
Israeli producer Eli Nisman said the decision was made after he turned to the EBU and told jurors failed to meet the criteria of the broadcasting union. His claims could not be fully verified, but he provided Haaretz with access to his correspondence with the EBU. The exchanges prove that Nisman did in fact turn to the association regarding the matter.
The Israel Broadcasting Company said in response that “the IBA chose the members of the jury based on their professional abilities. In order to suit the jury to EBU regulations, a number of judges who did not meet the criteria were replaced."
The members of the new Israeli jury are producer and singer Moshe Datz, who has been appointed as chairman, singer Chen Aharoni, producer and radio broadcaster Amir Cohen, composer Doron Medalie and singer Nikka Bukaee. They replaced the Israel Broadcasting Authority music editor Ofra Helfman, public relations man Alon Amir and the two less well known members – Dafna Gold, a dancer and clarinet player, and Roi Klein, a high school student who plays rock music. Alon Amir has worked in recent years as the PR agent of various countries in the Eurovision contest, and also represented singers who are participating in the contest this year as well.
Gili Izikovich contributed to this report.