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eric saade

Singer who wore keffiyeh during Eurovision opening act labels EBU condemnation 'racist'

Last night, a spokesperson for the contest’s organisers said it regretted Saade’s choice to “compromise the non-political nature of the event”.

ERIC SAADE, WHO performed during the Eurovision’s opening act in Malmö, Sweden last night, has responded to the contest’s organisers after they said they “regret” the fact that the artist chose to wear a traditional Palestinian item on stage.

Saade wore a keffiyeh, which has become a symbol commonly used by people who want to show they are pro-Palestinian, on his arm while performing on stage last night.

There’s been pressure on the competition’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), to ban Israel from the contest this year over the conflict in Gaza – with campaigners in various competing countries calling for a boycott if the country is not excluded. 

After his performance, a spokesperson for the EBU said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a live TV show. All performers are made aware of the rules of the contest, and we regret that Eric Saade chose to compromise the non-political nature of the event.”

The singer previously competed in the contest on behalf of his home country Sweden in 2011 and his father is of Palestinian origin. He claims that the keffiyeh is not a political symbol and is a piece of clothing which represents his culture.

Posting on social media today, Saade said that he got the keffiyeh from his father when he was young and that he wanted to wear something that was “authentic” to his identity when performing last night.

“Back then, I didn’t know it would one day be called a ‘political symbol’ by the EBU. It’s like calling a Swedish dala horse a political symbol,” he said.

“In my eyes, it’s just racism.”

“It says nothing about me, but everything about them,” he added. “I’ll stick to this year’s ESC (Eurovision song contest) slogan: United by music. I can only hope for some kind of change in the future.”

Bambie Thug, Ireland’s Eurovision contestant who last night qualified for the final, previously called for Israel to be expelled.

Before their first performance last night, photos of them with Ogham writing, an ancient Irish script, appeared online. The script spelled out the words ‘Ceasefire’ and ‘Freedom for Palestine’ on their face and body.

Last night the singer told reporters that the EBU had ordered them to change the writing they had worn in rehearseals before they could perform at the semi-finals.

“It was very important to me because I am pro-justice and pro-peace. Unfortunately I had to change those messages today to ‘crown the witch’ only – an order from the EBU,” Bambie Thug said.

Tuning into Eurovision and looking for something to read? You’ll find a quick guide to this year’s contest here, and we published this comprehensive piece on the controversy around Israel’s inclusion at the weekend

The Journal’s Daragh Brophy is in Malmö covering the contest and surrounding events – you can follow him here on Twitter/X.

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