Israel’s 2023 Eurovision Song Contest representative Noah Kirel would only accept interviews from international news outlets as long as they did not ask political questions about Israel, Ynet reported.
I’m talking to Walla! Culture, Noah Kirel spokeswoman Shire Pinto confirmed this report, saying that the reason for this condition is that “this is a music competition and we prefer not to talk about politics.”
A senior official at KAN, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, told Walla! Culture, “I didn’t know about that. I think it’s very problematic.”
Asked if they thought it violated press freedom, a KAN spokesperson said the condition was solely the work of Pinto, Kirel’s personal spokeswoman. KAN had nothing to do with it.
Pinto later changed his position on whether international news outlets could ask Kirel political questions.
“On the turquoise carpet, anyone can ask anything and anyone can ask for anything freely,” Pinto said.
“I was approached with requests for interviews and I asked what the spirit of the interviews was. I asked them to focus on the music because this is a song contest, not a European Union political conference. My job as a PR manager is to do the best thing for my client. Noah is well informed and knows how to answer everything. The freedom of the press is not affected.”
At a press conference two months ago, after Kirel revealed Israel’s Eurovision song “Unicorn” for the first time, this reporter had a brief interview with Kirel, during which she was told: “In this press conference, you have positive and easy-going interviewers from Israel who they love and everyone wants you to win first place. In Europe they won’t be so kind. Have you started preparing how to answer political questions that foreign media are likely to ask you? Israel is currently receiving a lot of criticism for judicial reform. Are you worried about these questions and that they might cost you votes?”
Kirel then replied: “Obviously there are concerns because politics is also involved in Eurovision. I haven’t started preparing yet because I’m going through everything right now. The song just came out and the music video just came out. I’m letting people – and myself – get used to it. Of course I will go through everything because I want to come prepared. I know that I represent Israel and that I will probably be asked questions that are not the most fun in the world. It’s a shortcoming, but at the end of the day I’m representing my home country. I represent Israel, which is such an amazing and advanced country, so I will be ready for any questions.”
However, it appears Kirel may not have arrived prepared for political questions, or her fears may have overwhelmed her ability to answer them properly.
Political issues for Israel at Eurovision
At the Eurovision press conferences, there are no rules about asking political questions, and while most representatives are usually only asked questions like “Who designed your dress” and “How did you get your hair so beautiful”, artists from Israel are usually asked political questions.
The only time there was a limit on a political issue was at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, when rockets were fired into the South on the day of rehearsals. The European Broadcasting Union withdrew this restriction the following day.
Press conferences were canceled this year, so the turquoise carpet was the first opportunity for the press to speak to the 37 Eurovision representatives.
Due to the unique political situation in Israel, its representatives always attract a lot of attention.
On the carpet, the moderators asked Kyrel about her song “Unicorn”.
She replied: “You only have three minutes to introduce yourself and your culture – it’s a challenge, but I love challenges. It was important to me to bring ‘Unicorn’ and its message to the world, a message of personal empowerment, who you are, loving yourself as you are, and embracing the uniqueness and diversity that exists in all of us.”