An Israeli ministry has set up an inter-ministerial task force to deal with Eurovision acts that may violate the country’s boycott law during the song contest.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry’s move came after an Israeli non-profit organisation called Shurat HaDin, which claims to be fighting terrorism as well as academic and economic boycotts, accused Iceland’s Eurovision entry Hatari of signing a petition supporting a boycott against Israel.



“According to the amendment to the Entry into Israel Law, a person who is not an Israeli citizen or in possession of a permanent residence permit in Israel will not be granted a visa or residency permit, if he or the organization or body he is working for has knowingly issued a public call to boycott Israel, as defined in the Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott,” the group said in a statement.

“I don’t think as of now there will be a Palestinian flag on the stage.”

— Hatari

Last spring, more than 25,000 Icelanders signed a change.org petition asking the public broadcaster RUV to boycott Eurovision 2019, which is set to be hosted in Israel after Israeli singer Netta won the 2018 competition with her song “Toy.”

It’s unclear whether Hatari, a self-described “anti-capitalist techno BDSM band,” actually signed the petition, but the group’s members—three art school friends, Klemens Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson, and Einar Stéfansson—told Israel’s Channel 13 in an interview that they have been critical of Eurovision being held in that country.

“The fact that Iceland voted for us means they agree with our agenda to keep alive the discussion,” Haraldsson said. “I don’t think as of now there will be a Palestinian flag on the stage.”

Picture of Hatari, the self-described industrial BDSM band representing Iceland at Eurovision
Iceland picked “industrial BDSM band” Hatari as its Eurovision entry. (Hatari/Facebook)

Asked about their feelings towards performing in Israel in an interview with the Independent published on Tuesday (March 12), the band members said Eurovision’s insistence on being a politically-neutral event is paradoxical.

“Clearly there’s a huge distinction between the actions of the Israeli state as an institution, at which criticism is directed, and the Israeli people,” Haraldsson said.

“You can’t go to Tel Aviv and perform on that stage without breaking the rules of Eurovision.”

— Hatari

He then explained: “It’s a paradox because all of the songs that make it to that stage will offend the sensibilities of many people by virtue of the context of where the contest is taking place, and the legitimate criticisms many people have.

“So that in itself is a breach of the Eurovision rules. You can’t go to Tel Aviv and perform on that stage without breaking the rules of Eurovision. That goes for us and everyone else. And you can’t be completely silent about the situation, as the silence in itself is a massive political statement too.”

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Hatari’s song, which won them the vote of the Icelandic public to represent the country at Eurovision earlier this month, is particularly likely to offend some sensitivities.

The song, titled “Hatrið Mun Sigra”—meaning “Hate Will Prevail”—offers a bleak vision of a world ravaged by hatred and division, set to a catchy techno tune.

The band however clarified that they believe their performance will perfectly suit the setting, telling The Independent: “Hatari felt even more inclined to participate. Our impulse was that Hatari should go to Eurovision. We felt that the politics not only in Israel but in Europe, America, and the rest of the world, currently fall very much within the purview of Hatari – a dystopian theatre piece reflecting violence, hatred and repression.”

Haraldsson added: “Our power as court jesters is to evoke a discussion.”

Hatari challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a match of Icelandic wrestling

The theatrics of their performances aside, Hatari knew how to grab headlines even ahead of the Söngvakeppnin final, challenging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a wrestling match—not any wrestling match, but specifically glíma.

Glíma is a traditional form of trouser-grip wrestling common to Iceland and Sweden in which wrestlers wear a belt around the waist and additional belts on the lower thighs of each leg and attempt to throw each other to the ground gripping the belt at the waist and at the thigh height.

In their statement challenging Netanyahu, reported in local media on February 7, Hatari said the match would have to take place on May 19 in Tel Aviv, but gave the Israeli leader the chance to decide a time that would suit him best.

At stake in the match would be a portion of territory—a Hatari victory would give the band the right to establish “the first ever Hatari sponsored liberal BDSM colony” on the Mediterranean coast, within Israel’s borders. Should Netanyahu win, the Israeli government would gain “full political and economic control” of the South-Icelandic municipality and archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 13 last week, Hatari reminded the prime minister that they have yet to receive an answer to their invitation.




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