Palestinian flags fly during protests around the world. They won't be at Eurovision.

In the months following the start of Israel's military campaign in Gaza, thousands of musicians and fans from countries including Iceland, Ireland and Sweden signed petitions calling on Eurovision organizers to ban Israel from the event due to the high of civilian deaths and widespread destruction in the occupied territories. territory, where according to the United Nations the population is now on the brink of famine.

Campaigners say Eurovision's ban on Russia taking part after it invaded Ukraine in 2022 set a precedent. But Eurovision organizers reject the comparison. “We understand the deeply held concerns and opinions about the current conflict in the Middle East,” the broadcasting union said in a January statement. However, he added, Eurovision “is not a competition between governments”.

In a more recent statement on its website, the broadcasters' union said it would not crack down on pro-Palestinian demonstrations outside the arena during this year's finals. The union “is a firm supporter of free speech,” the statement said, adding: “We understand that people may want to make their voices heard and support the right of those who wish to demonstrate peacefully.”

Dean Vuletic, author of a book on the political history of Eurovision, said in a telephone interview that its organizers had cracked down on flags in 2016, partly to prevent the display of symbols of terrorist groups such as Islamic state. They also banned flags of disputed territories and those promoting separatist causes, much to the irritation of fans of Kosovo and Catalonia. Even the European Union flag, which was previously permitted, is now no longer permitted, Vuletic added.

Some fans said they accepted the policy. Sophia Ahlin, president of the Swedish Eurovision fan club, said in a text message that it is “nothing unusual” to only allow flags of participating nations.

But others said the contest's decision had discouraged them. Straumland, the Icelandic fan, said she would not watch this year's event because of Israel's involvement, even though Eurovision was “the greatest source of happiness in my life together with my son.” Instead, she said, she would go to an alternative party, where drag and burlesque shows would cover old Eurovision hits.

And, he added, he will take a Palestinian flag.

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