Israeli Group to Raise Israeli, Syrian Flags at Eurovision Song Contest

Published May 12th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Israel's representatives for the Eurovision song contest said Friday they were standing by plans to perform brandishing both their own country's flag and that of Syria, Israel's longtime enemy. 

The group, Ping-Pong, caused a stir Thursday when they produced the flags during rehearsals for the competition, which this year is being staged in Stockholm. 

"I think politics has nothing to do with this contest," said the head of the Israeli delegation, Haime Meluban. 

But Melissa Stern, spokeswoman for the group told AFP Friday the group would perform as planned. 

And group member Guy Asif told Israel's army radio on Thursday: "We came to Stockhom to bring pleasure, peace and love and if they stop us from waving Israeli and Syrian flags in our act there's no point in singing our song. 

"We are in favor of the return of all the land (occupied from the Arabs by Israel in 1967) and we don't think there is anything more innocent and touching than two flags flying side by side." 

Israeli officials are worried at the sight of the Syrian flags appearing before an estimated audience of one hundred million European television viewers for the Saturday's contest. 

Members of the Israeli delegation were due to meet Friday to discuss the matter. 

Talks between Israel and Syria aimed at ending half a century of hostility resumed amid great fanfare in December but broke off only weeks later over the fate of the occupied Golan Heights. 

Although the contest is better known for its kitsch style and the variable quality of the songs on offer, this is not the first time an Israeli entrant has involved it in controversy. 

The 1998 Eurovision drew the ire of ultra-Orthodox Jews offended that the Jewish state was represented by transsexual Dana International, who went on to win the contest -- STOCKHOLM (AFP) 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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