Musician and Eurovision enthusiast Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson, who is currently pressing for Iceland to withdraw from Eurovision this year on account of it being held in Tel Aviv, made some decidedly anti-Semitic remarks on national broadcasting radio yesterday. Hours later, he posted a lengthy apology.
Thousands of Icelanders currently support boycotting Eurovision as it takes place in Israel this year; support for Eurovision, it is argued, expresses tacit support for the Israeli government’s policies regarding the Palestinian people. While Iceland ultimately decided to participate, the debate is far from over, and Páll Óskar has been amongst the most vocal supporters of a boycott.
However, when speaking with radio station Rás 1 yesterday, he made remarks regarding Jewish people as a whole that crossed the line from criticism of the Israeli government into more sweeping generalisations.
“The reason why the rest of Europe has been virtually silent is that Jews have woven themselves into the fabric of Europe in a very sly way for a very long time. It is not at all hip and cool to be pro-Palestine in Britain,” he said, saying at the interview’s conclusion: “The tragedy is that Jews learned nothing from the Holocaust. Instead, they have taken up the exact same policy of their worst enemy.”
The remarks were met with sharp criticism from many Icelanders, and hours later, Páll Óskar posted an apology and retraction.
“I admit unreservedly that I put the Israeli government, the Israeli military and the Jewish people under the same hat,” he wrote. “I made judgements and generalisations about Jewish people. … I take full responsibility for these words, take back my remarks about Jewish people, they are wrong and hurtful. I will take responsibility in actions, from this point forward, and will never again speak ill of the Jewish people, wherever in the world they may live.”
While emphasising that his remarks about the Israeli government and military still stand, given their actions towards the Palestinian people, he also reiterated that “my generalisations, which mixed up Jewish people with Zionist policies, sparked a strong response that I willingly take responsibility for.”
Correction: The article originally contended that Eurovision will be held in Jerusalem. The venue has been changed, and the article has since been updated.