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Eurovision Bans Palestinian, ISIS Flags from Song Contest | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A spectator waves a Palestinian flag during the first leg of the Palestine Cup final soccer match between Gaza Strip’s Shejaia and Hebron’s Al-Ahly at al-Yarmouk stadium in Gaza City August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced in its flag policy released on Friday that the flags of Palestine and ISIS will be banned from 2016’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The audience will also be banned from waving flags from other disputed political entities including Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh and Northern Cyprus.

“Particularly, the organizers request and urge the fan community to respect and appreciate the non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest,” said the policy statement.

The decision by European broadcasters to ban any display of Palestinian flags during the upcoming contest next month in Sweden provoked outrage in Ramallah.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s top peace negotiator who recently assumed the post of secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, slammed the decision.

In a letter to the president of European Broadcasting Union, Jean-Paul Philippot, the head of the body in charge of producing the show, Erekat said that the decision to bar the colors of the PLO was “discriminatory and a serious offense against our nation.”

“The Eurovision song contest this year will be held in Stockholm, Sweden, the first EU member state in Western Europe to officially recognize the State of Palestine,” Erakat wrote.

Eurovision’s decision is “totally biased and unacceptable.”

“We call upon you to immediately revoke this shameful decision. It’s also equally necessary for the European Broadcasting Union to apologize to Palestine and to millions of Palestinians around the world.”

Erekat noted that some 138 nations, including most of Europe, have officially recognized a Palestinian state. “We call upon you to immediately revoke this shameful decision,” he continued, demanding that the Europeans issue an apology to “millions of Palestinians around the world.”

Eurovision 2016 will take place in the Swedish capital of Stockholm with the winner to be announced on May 14.

An earlier version of the policy stirred controversy by placing the ISIS flag in the list of banned flags next to that of Spain’s northern Basque region. The updated policy places the ISIS flag in its own “strictly prohibited” section.

The EBU also included regulations regarding flag size and material, intended to prevent cameras from being blocked.