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Israeli Contest Entry Pushes Europe’s Buttons

Jerusalem – Organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest are protesting Israel’s decision to submit a song whose lyrics seem to touch on the raging international controversy over Iran’s nuclear program.

“It’s absolutely clear that this kind of message is not appropriate for the competition,” said Kjell Ekholm, a Eurovision organizer, adding that contest officials would convene to discuss whether to disqualify the song, “Push the Button,” performed by hip-hop-cum-urban-pop group Teapacks.

The song speaks of “crazy leaders in the world who are trying to trick us” and “rockets flying and landing on me.” A line from the chorus becomes even more specific: “I wanna have a lot of fun, just sitting in the sun, but nevertheless, he’s gonna push the button.”

In the face of the negative reaction among contest organizers, Israelis remained defiant. The Israel Broadcasting Authority, which selected the song last week, said it had submitted the lyrics to the European Broadcasting Union and encountered no problems.

Meanwhile, the band’s lead vocalist, Kobi Oz, argued that the song should be appreciated for capturing the Israeli national mood.

“The song has a line that talks about ‘several crazy leaders.’ … We didn’t mention names,” Oz told Ma’ariv. “The State of Israel has gone through enough so that it can laugh at terrorism. The Israelis chose the song because that is the best way: not to be afraid, but to laugh in their faces,” he said.

Many Israelis are convinced that their fortunes at Eurovision depend on the state of their rapprochement efforts with Middle East neighbors.

The landmark Israeli-Egyptian peace talks of 1978-79 coincided with two successive victories by the Jewish state at Eurovision. The third and last victory was in 1998, the height of optimism at the prospects of the Israeli-Palestinian interim peace talks.

Israel had additional help in the form of its singer that year, transsexual Dana International, whose vamping delighted liberal Europeans while stirring rancor among religious conservatives back home.

Even if “Push the Button” passes the political correctness test in Helsinki, it may be challenged on another front — originality.

Ma’ariv reported that the song contains elements that recall a song from the 1936 Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times.”

But the newspaper quoted Teapacks members as saying it was a matter of inspired homage rather than plagiarism.

“There is a resemblance, but it is extremely small,” one unnamed musician said. “We’re talking about a half-note exactly. The Eurovision rules are clear, and there will be no legal problem with the song.”

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