Following the outcry in Israel after the Eurovision Song Contest‘s 2nd semifinal, in which Israel was the only country whose map was not shown prior to its song, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the Norwegian hosts of this year’s contest to convey their message. During tonight’s final the Israeli map was indeed shown – albeit missing the west bank. Sources in the MFA told Ynet that they insisted Israel “will be shown as a country with borders, and not some amorphous entity”.
Graphics shown in the ESC’s 2nd semifinal::
Graphics shown in the ESC’s final::
I realize that all this might seem like some kind of a bizarre Rorschach inkblot test, making too much out of a graphical element, but I think flags, anthems and maps are important symbols of independence, and it seems every now and again someone figures Israel is fair game.
Did you watch the European Song Contest‘s 2nd semifinal last night? Did you notice it? It came and went really fast, but did you manage to notice how Israel was wiped off the map?
Before each live performance a short video clip about the participating country was shown, but right before that video some on-screen graphics created the map of each country. Yes, each country but one: Israel.
Right before Harel Skaat took to the stage, the same yellow graphics that filled the screen for each other country, that graphics was now squished to the side and quickly disappeared.
Did the 62 years old Jewish nation get the shaft? Did The Jew Among Nations got the regular treatment? Serbia, a country that got its independence less than 4 years ago got similar treatment in the 1st semifinal; Does that fact make it better or worse?
Here’s the video (Don’t blink during the first few seconds):
Back in 1999 the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest were changed, turning the popular musical contest into the joke that it is today. I expect you all to memorize these two rules that de-facto killed the ESC:
- The abolishment of the requirement of the host broadcaster to provide a live orchestra.
- The abolishment of the requirement that contestants sing in their own national language.
Now take a stroll down memory lane back to Sweden in 1985 where Izhar Cohen took 5th place with “Ole, Ole“. Apart from the brilliant colors and the joie de vivre, note Cohen yelling right before taking the stage, and a shrieking female backup singer.
Everything you do or say in Israel can be construed as political, from the paper you read to the lunch you eat. It’s no wonder, then, that so many songs sent to represent Israel at the Eurovision song contest over the years have raised quite a bit of ruckus on the way. Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane:
In 1974, just after the Yom Kippur war, Israeli band Kaveret sang at Brighton, UK, “There’s enough air for a country or two”. In 1983, a decade after the Olympics massacre and half a century after WWII, singer Ofra Haza, in front of a German audience in Munich, sang “I am still alive”. In 1991 at Rome, Italy, a singing Duo Datz wished whoever comes ‘Ahalan’ in Arabic, but stated they were born ‘here’ and so were their children. At the 2000 contest in Stockholm, Sweden, things got so hectic that the band Ping-Pong were disavowed by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority after insisting on waving an Israeli and a Syrian flag (and some cucumbers). In 2007 at Helsinki, Finland, Israeli band Teapacks warned the world that you-know-who is “gonna push the button”.
Held this week in Moscow, Russia, the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest will include another political song from Israel, but one that is quite sober and realistic. Sung by “an Arab girl who looks Jewish and a Jewish girl who looks Arab” this song might not win Europe over, but I believe singers and songwriters Noa and Mira Awad will make many Israelis proud by their simple statement in English, Hebrew and Arabic: There must be another way:
Noa & Mira Awad – There Must Be Another Way (Israel)
May 12, 2009 – Israel qualified for the final contest. Russian host Andrey Malakhov: “The most political-correct [sic] song goes to the final! Congrats Israel”.
May 17, 2009 – As expected, Europe did not fall in love and with 53 points Israel has finished in 16th place.