Protesters in Eurovision Host City Call for Boycott of Israel

People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)
People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)
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Protesters in Eurovision Host City Call for Boycott of Israel

People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)
People hold banners at a demonstration in connection with the municipal board's consideration of a citizens' proposal by the initiative 'No Eurovision in Malmo with Israel's participation' to stop Israel's participation in Eurovision, outside the City Hall in Malmo, Sweden, April 10, 2024. (Johan NilssonTT News Agency/via Reuters)

Protesters waving Palestinian flags and banners on Wednesday called for a boycott of Israel at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in the Swedish city of Malmo that will host the event next month.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes Eurovision, bills the song contest as a non-political event.

But the global political backdrop often weighs on the contest, which this year takes place amid protests and boycotts over the devastating Israeli military campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, affecting cultural events across Europe.

"I think there is no way that Israel should be able to participate in Eurovision and it's complete double standards that they let them participate when they kicked Russia out," said Malmo resident Mats Rehle, 43, who works in a bookshop.

Protesters outside Malmo city held a banner calling for the boycott of Israel above the Eurovision logo, while another banner featured red stains to look like blood and a pair of scissors cutting the chord to a microphone displaying an Israeli flag.

The EBU in 2022 banned Russia from Eurovision after several European public broadcasters called for the country to be expelled following its invasion of Ukraine.

The union has said it suspended the Russian broadcasters over "persistent breaches of membership obligations and the violation of public service values."

The organizers' decision to include Israeli broadcaster KAN has sparked protests from artists and ministers, but the EBU said in January that Eurovision was not a contest between governments and that KAN met all competition rules.

The union has so far resisted calls for Israel to be excluded from Eurovision, and on Wednesday urged people to refrain from online abuse directed at some participating artists.

"We have all been affected by the images, stories, and the unquestionable pain suffered by those in Israel and in Gaza," the EBU said in a statement.

"However... we wish to address the concerns and discussions surrounding this situation, especially the targeted social media campaigns against some of our participating artists," it added.



Spanish Fan Shows Off His Taylor Swift 'Sanctuary' Before Madrid Gig

Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Spanish Fan Shows Off His Taylor Swift 'Sanctuary' Before Madrid Gig

Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Roberto Santos, 55, stands out among other "Swifties" for his decades-long devotion to American pop icon Taylor Swift and a plethora of gifts the Spaniard has received from her team in recognition of that - enough to fill up an apartment room he calls a sanctuary.
As Swift, 34, was preparing to play her Eras Tour gigs in Madrid on Wednesday and Thursday, Santos, who runs a dental prosthetics lab in Spain's capital, solemnly displayed the items, including Swift's limited-edition platinum disk award, signed photos, recordings, and sneakers bearing both their names, said Reuters.
"Sometimes I wake up at night, turn on the light and look a little, and say to myself: 'What are you doing?'... I just look, it gives me calm, and I go back to sleep," Santos said in an interview.
"For me she means everything; I've been following her since before 2011... I had the gut feeling that she was going to be big. If I had the same intuition with the lottery, I'd be rich," Santos said.
He said going to see her perform in Dublin in 2018 made him the only person to have traveled twice from Spain for a Swift show. Her management team then added Santos and his wife Inmaculada to an exclusive fan list, and sent them gifts and invitations, including an all-paid trip to Los Angeles last year, Santos said.
"If I was 18 or 20, I imagine I could go a bit crazy... but now everything feels more mature and calm," said Santos, who has Swift-themed tattoos on his arms and ankle.
He has yet to meet her in person. A planned meeting in Oslo was canceled due to the pandemic.
Santos is particularly thankful to Swift and her team for thinking about older fans, and for "the values she has transmitted" through her art.
Swift's record-breaking Eras Tour has boosted local economies. In Madrid, hotel occupancy rates have climbed to 90% on average for the concert dates.