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Erekat slams Eurovision contest's Palestinian flag ban

April 30, 2016 4:47 P.M. (Updated: May 1, 2016 4:16 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat slammed the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on Saturday for banning the Palestinian flag from the 2016 Eurovision song contest, calling the ruling “discriminatory and a serious offense against our nation.”

In a letter obtained by Ma’an addressed to EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot, Erekat expressed his “outrage and indignation” toward the decision, which also banned flags from other disputed political entities such as Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, and the Islamic State.

EBU released the “flag policy” on their website on Friday, which was reportedly published by mistake.

The statement read: "Particularly, the organizers request and urge the fan community to respect and appreciate the non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest," stating that only flags representing UN member states would be permitted.

An apology was later issued, and Middle East Eye quoted a Eurovision spokesperson as saying: "the flag policy is not aimed against specific territories or organizations, and certainly does not compare them to each other."

Erekat responded to the ban, telling Philippot: “Your decision to single out the flag of Palestine, a country recognized by 138 world nations and who has an observer status in the United Nations, is discriminatory and a serious offense against our nation.”

Erekat noted that the Palestinian flag has been raised “in all European countries through diplomatic representations,” including Switzerland, where EBU’s headquarters are located.

He also pointed out that the 2016 edition of the yearly event -- to take place on May 14 -- will be held in Sweden, the first Western European EU member to officially recognize the state of Palestine.

“Your decision is totally biased and unacceptable. We call upon you to immediately revoke this shameful decision,” Erekat admonished, also demanding that EBU issue an apology specifically to Palestinians and the “millions of Palestinians around the world.”

Eurovision has never invited a Palestinian representative to participate in the contest, while Israel has participated in the event 38 times since 1973.
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