Day 6

Iceland's bondage-clad, anti-capitalist techno band has a message for Israel at Eurovision

Hatari's on-stage performances feature cages, chains and bondage gear. They say they want to destroy capitalism and that they'll use the platform onstage in Tel Aviv to make a statement about the Israeli military occupation.

Hatari makes statement opposing Israeli military occupation

Hatari is known for their provocative live performances and anti-capitalist messages. (Íris Dögg Einars/Eurovision)
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Eurovision — known for its camp, upbeat performances — has been thrust into an ethical dilemma around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as contestants grapple with Israel as this year's host country.

The provocative, bondage-clad techno-punk performance group Hatari will represent Iceland at the competition. Speaking with Icelandic media, the group has called for an end to the conflict.

"We, of course, hope to see an end to the occupation," English-language Icelandic magazine the Reykjavik Grapevine reported lead singer Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson as saying.

Palestinians and most of the international community, including Canada, consider East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, to be occupied territories.

Eurovision 2019 will be hosted next week in Tel Aviv, Israel. The decision has been heavily criticized by advocates for the Palestinian people, but with 42 countries heading to the competition, calls for a boycott have made little difference.

Though Hatari has said they won't make any overt political statements on stage, which is barred by Eurovision's official rules, Icelandic journalist Andie Fontaine says they're notoriously unpredictable.

"If they did something unexpected on stage, it probably would not be broadcast," Fontaine told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

"Instead they're preferring to use the platform of appearing in front of reporters to express their particular point of view about the conflict between Israel and Palestine there."

Calls for boycott

According to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, "Israel is shamelessly using Eurovision as part of its official Brand Israel strategy, which presents 'Israel's prettier face.'"

However, celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Sharon Osborne, have criticized the calls for a boycott for "turning [Eurovision] from a tool of unity into a weapon of division."

"It's actually Iceland's Public Broadcasting Service who made the decision that they were sending somebody there," Fontaine said. "But Icelanders would — a lot of Icelanders, anyway — would still prefer that every possible musician just refuses to attend."

In 2011, Iceland became the first western European nation to recognize Palestine as an independent state.

Icelandic anti-capitalist, techno-punk performance group Hatari performs on stage. (Mummi Lú/Eurovision)

But even if Hatari has no plans to be political on stage, that hasn't stopped the group from making statements in the lead up to the big show.

The group has challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a traditional Icelandic wrestling match. If Israel wins Eurovision, Iceland — according to Hatari — will desert and hand over the Westman Islands to Israel.

If Iceland wins, however, Netanyahu will have to allow Hatari to build a "liberal BDSM colony" on the Mediterrean sea.

"Nobody here takes that seriously because Hatari does not have the authority to cede the Republic of Iceland's territory," Fontaine said.

But, Fontaine adds, "I think that's a pretty undeniable piece of satire there."

Music and politics

Hatari's song, Hatrið mun sigra — "hate will prevail" in English — tells the story of a possible dystopian Europe overtaken by far-right politicians.

The song is meant as a "warning" about hate being promoted by far-right politicians across the continent, Fontaine said.

But beneath the growling vocals of lead singer Haraldsson is an undercurrent of hope for a "better future" — a more fitting ideal for the contest known for its campy performances that have made stars out of ABBA and Céline Dion.

"A lot of people got the impression that the song itself was promoting hate on account of the title without looking further … that take on the song kind of went viral," Fontaine said.

Hatari plays with genres in their music and binaries in their aesthetic. (Mummi Lú/Eurovision)

It's unfortunate, Fontaine adds, "because there's nothing that this band desires more than peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people."

Despite Hatrið mun sigra being a strong contender, Fontaine worries the band's efforts will be thwarted by the "Icelandic curse."

The country has competed 31 times since 1986, missing only two contests, and won silver twice.

"We take Eurovision real seriously in this country — like more so than other European countries — and every year we get our hopes up," Fontaine added.

"But we've never actually won and that's the curse. And I think that curse is going to continue this year as well because there's a lot of other strong contenders out there."


To hear the full interview with Andie Fontaine, download our podcast or click 'Listen' at the top of this page.