The Icelandic punk band Hatari had an altercation with event security at Eurovision this weekend, after members of the band held up Palestinian flags and banners while they were on camera during the vote announcements.
As the band held up the banners, they were quickly rushed by security. Band member Stefan Agustsson later posted a video to Twitter showing the encounter.
— Stefán Ágústsson (@stebbisnaer) May 18, 2019
The European Broadcasting Union, who organized the event, said in a statement that the band would be punished and see “consequences of this action.”
“The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and this directly contradicts the contest rule… The banners were quickly removed and the consequences of this action will be discussed by the reference group after the contest,” The European Broadcasting Union said in a statement.
The band surprisingly drew criticism from both sides of the argument, as some pro-Palestinian groups were unhappy that they even performed at the event, violating the boycott that is underway against Israel.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) accused the band of crossing a picket line in a statement after the protest.
“Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line,” the statement read.
In an interview before the event, Hatari responded to these criticisms, saying that there was more value in using the platform to raise awareness about what is happening in Palestine.
“The agenda-setting power should, no less, involve directing the eyes of the media in a critical way to the song contest and Israel. Maybe we’ll be kicked out of the competition because of it, but that in itself would be just as revealing as any performance of ours on the Eurovision stage,” Hatari said.
Throughout the event, Hatari took every opportunity they could find to raise awareness about the struggle of the Palestinian people. In a statement to the press, the band even challenged the country’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a “friendly match of traditional Icelandic trouser grip wrestling,” according to the Independent.
While it is true that the event’s official policy does not allow for political protests, a report from CNN this week has pointed out that political struggles have been causing controversy for this event for decades. This year there were even numerous outfits and performances this year that could have been considered political.
— Einar Fridriksson (@EinarKF) May 19, 2019
However, these political protests are tame when compared to controversies that the event has seen in the past. Numerous countries have pulled out of the event over tensions between host regions. Lebanon pulled out of its scheduled Eurovision debut in 2005 over disagreements about Israel. Then in 2009, Georgia pulled out of a competition that was being hosted in Russia, during tensions between the two countries.
There have also been accusations that various countries have attempted to rig the votes in order to bring honor and prestige to their country.
Hatari reportedly came in 10th place in the contest.