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Lebanese Boycott Song Competition Due to Israeli Participant

Lebanese musicians are disengaging from the Eurovision song competition due to the presence of an Israeli performer, organizers of the event announced Friday.
First Publish: 3/21/2005, 12:06 PM / Last Update: 3/20/2005, 7:55 PM

The Eurovision website explained that Lebanon refused to abide by the rules of the contest, choosing its own laws over the Eurovision regulations.

"According to Lebanese legislation, Tele Liban [Lebanese TV] is not permitted to broadcast the performance of the Israeli participant, thereby breaching the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest 2005," the website statement said. The rules of the contest dictate that the event must be broadcast in its entirety by the national broadcasters of all participants’ home countries.

The competition is set to take place on May 19-20 in Kiev, Ukraine. Israel has won three Eurovision contests, in 1978, 1979 and 1998, but finished a disappointing 11th last year.

The head of Lebanon’s broadcast authority, Ibrahim Khoury, told the Associated Press that Lebanon was unaware of an Israeli participant when it entered the competition. "Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel," he said. "If the Israeli contestant wins, we would have to show the celebrations. I cannot do this."

For Lebanon, any contact with the Jewish state is considered a crime. Still, the country routinely takes part in Miss Universe and Miss World contests, together with Israeli contestants, and these are broadcast on Lebanese television.

Jad Rahbani, a Lebanese musician who composed the song to be sung at the competition said he was very disappointed. “It’s a sad moment for us and the Lebanese people especially at this time as we are living in critical moments,” he told Al-Jazeera, referring to the ongoing political upheavals in Lebanon.

This is not the first time Arab regimes have missed out on opportunities to take part in competitions due to their refusal to recognize Israeli participation. Miss Lebanon once dropped out of a Miss Universe pageant after she refused to be photographed with her colleague from Israel.

In 1978, Jordanian television showed pictures of flowers whenever the Israeli participants took the Eurovision stage. The state-run television went even further, lying about the winner of the competition to avoid mention of Israel’s victory. According to Jordan TV, Belgium - which had come in second place - was the winner, while viewers elsewhere around the world were watching the Israeli contestant celebrate his victory with the popular song "Abanibi."