Eurovision team resolute amid rocket threat - analysis

Despite security uncertainty, contestants continue to arrive in Israel to film 'postcards,' with 50 days until competition kicks off

March 26, 2019 08:17
Labourers stand on a crane as they hang 2019 Eurovision Song Contest banners in Tel Aviv

Labourers stand on a crane as they hang 2019 Eurovision Song Contest banners in Tel Aviv, Israel January 24, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)


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A surprise rocket attack that destroyed a home in the Mishmeret moshav on Monday, wounding seven, has rattled the country and cast a shadow over the upcoming Eurovision competition in Tel Aviv.

The attack marked the second time in less than two weeks that deadly rockets were fired toward central Israel. And with 50 days until the Eurovision kicks off, concerns about an escalation during the competition – or the possibility of a one-off attack – are climbing.

Both European and local officials behind the contest, however, are publicly staid about the threat of rockets.

A spokeswoman for KAN told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that, “right now everything is quiet... not much has happened.”

She said that the public broadcaster has no specific plan in place for dealing with rockets during the Eurovision.

It’s hard to blame KAN for not having a plan. Monday’s rocket attack proved, once again, that even outside of escalations and full-out wars with Gaza, missiles could come at any time, with no warning or expectation. And even if, as Hamas claims, the rocket was fired by mistake, it has no effect on its potential damage. Mistakes kill.

Reached for comment on Monday, officials at the European Broadcasting Union told the Post they are monitoring the situation in Israel.

“Safety and security is always of paramount importance for the EBU,” it said in an emailed statement. “We continue to work alongside KAN and the appropriate Israeli authorities to safeguard the well-being of everyone preparing for and attending the Eurovision Song Contest in May. We will continue to closely monitor the current situation in Israel.”

The EBU, however, declined to answer if it has a contingency plan in place.

In the event of a full-blown war, moving the competition to a new location would be all but impossible at the last minute. Since it premiered 63 years ago in 1956, the Eurovision has never skipped a year.

The full contest – with 40 visiting delegations, hundreds of journalists and thousands of tourists – doesn’t kick off until May.

But for the past few weeks – and for several weeks to come – the 40 contestants have been visiting Israel for several days to film their “postcard” clips that air during the competition.

At the time of the rocket strike Monday morning, Michael Rice, the singer from Britain, Keiino, the band from Norway and D-Moll, the group from Montenegro, were all in Israel. Macedonia’s representative, Tamara Todevska, set out for Israel several hours after the rocket attack, and landed on Monday.

On Tuesday the Portuguese contestant, Conan Osiris, is supposed to arrive, and Thursday should see the arrival of Russia’s Sergey Lazarev.

Several delegations were also in Israel during the rocket siren that sounded in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

According to social media posts from the visiting contestants, things are business as usual. In a video message, the members of Keiino said “we can’t wait to be back here in May.”

They also posted a photo of themselves, “sightseeing in Tel Aviv after interviews” on Monday evening. Members of D-Moll posted images from both filming and touring around Israel.

And Todevska posted on Twitter from the airport: “Shalom Israel. I am not a morning person but I am really looking forward to my first trip to Israel to record my Eurovision postcard. Love you all.”

KAN told the Post on Monday that it is “in constant contact with the EBU and the delegations currently in Israel to film their postcards. Their safety is our highest priority, and they have been briefed on the situation,” a spokesman said. “Currently, there are no changes in their production schedules.” An Israeli communications consultant involved in organizing the postcard-filming visits said that the delegations “have no concerns; everything is proceeding as usual.”

That attitude seems to be currently prevailing among Eurovision organizers and officials. But the classic Israeli approach of “everything will be OK” can only go so far.

In less than two months, more than 100 million people will be tuning in to watch the biggest international singing competition in the world.

No matter the intense security preparations, Israeli officials cannot promise the EBU that rockets won’t be fired at Israel during the Eurovision. KAN cannot ensure the contestants from around the world that they won’t be targeted by Hamas missiles.

Over the next 50 days, the thousands of people involved in making the Eurovision in Israel – one of the largest international events in the country’s history – a reality, will be hoping for quiet. But there are no guarantees.

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