Eurovision has banned flying the Palestinian flag, amongst others, at the event, and one Icelandic politician is taking a personal stand on the matter.
As has been extensively reported, a list of flags Eurovision will be banning from the event was recently leaked to the world. Eurovision organisers contend the measure is designed to prevent audience members from politicising the event, but this argument is not holding water with everyone.
One of those who object to the ban is Sema Erla Serdar, the Chairwoman of the Excecutive Board of the Social Democratic Alliance of Iceland. She recently spoke out against the ban, so The Grapevine caught up with her to get a more detailed explanation of her position.
OK, first of all, what was your initial reaction to the news that Eurovision will be banning the Palestinian flag?
I was very disappointed, angry and offended at the same time. I was also surprised because I don’t understand how the organisers of the competition could come to the conclusion that this was a good idea. This list of flags that will not be allowed during the competition was not supposed to be public so it raises a lot of questions.
Eurovision has contended they just want to remain neutral on political positions. Does banning the Palestinian flag, amongst others, make sense to you in this context?
No, absolutely not, it’s actually hilarious. Everyone who watches Eurovision knows that the competition is far from neutral on politics. By banning the Palestinian flag, and others, the organisers are making the competition even more political than it already is. You can’t allow some flags, like the European Union flag (which is not a national flag), and ban others, except for maybe the ISIS flag. I get that, but I doubt that anyone would show up with that flag. Putting these chosen nations on the same list with flags of terrorist organisations is of course offensive and disrespectful to these nations.
When it comes to Palestine, I believe we are once again seeing the results of the Israeli lobby in Europe and it is disappointing to see that no one is standing up against it. It is especially disappointing because the competition is held in Sweden, which has, like Iceland, recognised Palestine as a free state and they have also opened up a Palestinian embassy in Sweden. Not to mention that the United Nations have given Palestine a status of a Non-Member Observer State, meaning their flag is raised at the UN headquarters.
How do you think Iceland, which has openly supported Palestine on numerous occasions, should respond to the ban?
I am at least going to boycott the competition this year and raise the Palestinian flag during Eurovision week. I know many others will do the same and I urge people to do so. If I was there, I would definitely bring the Palestinian flag with me to the competition and raise it inside the Eurovision arena.
It is important to use every opportunity to protest the crimes of the Israeli authorities against the Palestinian people, who suffer every day, and support them in their fight for freedom, justice and human rights. It’s a disgrace how the organisers of Eurovision have found themselves in a position to take that right away from people. If someone wants to raise the flag of Palestine, the European Union or the rainbow flag, they should be allowed to do so!