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Political concerns are generating controversy for this year's Eurovision competition

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Eurovision, the international song contest has resolved a conflict over the participation of Israel.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Though it's not in Europe, Israel usually is part of this show. Broadcasters in many nations are choosing nominees now for the contest in May, and Israel ran into trouble over its leading submission, a song called "October Rain," an apparent reference to the October 7 Hamas attacks.

MARTIN: Eurovision songs are not supposed to be political. Songs can be banned for that reason, and some countries pull out. But after Israel's president made the request, the songwriters agreed to revise the lyrics. John Kennedy O'Connor, who wrote a history of the contest, says controversies over song lyrics do happen from time to time.

JOHN KENNEDY O'CONNOR: Over the years, not very many, but some songs have been banned from the contest for that reason.

INSKEEP: In 2009, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia withdrew from the competition after its entry was vetoed.

O'CONNOR: They submitted a song. It was called "The Putin Disco (ph)," but they said they were singing, we don't want to put in, but of course they were singing. We don't want a Putin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE DON'T WANNA PUT IN")

STEPHANE AND 3G: (Singing) We don't wanna put in.

MARTIN: Russia was later banned from Eurovision after invading Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Ivan Raykoff at The New School in New York argues that Eurovision is inherently political because only United Nations-recognized nation states can participate.

MARTIN: Raykoff argues those rules can limit the representation of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, like Catalonians and the Flemish.

IVAN RAYKOFF: Ultimately, I find that a little ironic because the ideal behind Eurovision is kind of a peaceful, joyous collective of nations and national groups and languages through the language of music, through the celebration of performance.

MARTIN: For this year's performance, Israel is still in. Although some 1,000 artists in Eurovision host country Sweden, including pop star Robyn, have called for Israel to be banned over the war in Gaza.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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