Israel's Jewish-Arab singing duo that caused so much controversy in the wake of Israel's war on Gaza lost this year's Eurovision contest in Moscow late Saturday, finishing a distant 16th in the contest that has become a treasured European tradition.
Achinoam Nini, a Jewish Israeli peace activist and Mira Awad, a Christian Arab actress and singer from Israel, were selected by Israel's national broadcasting authority to represent the Jewish state is Saturday’s televised contest that draws 100 million TV viewers annually.
They sang ‘There Must Be Another Way’, an appeal for peace sung in Arabic, Hebrew and English which won 53 points from France, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Andorran, Estonian and Slovakia.
Norway took home the top prize at Moscow’s Olimpsky Concert Hall though much hope was pinned on the Israeli duo, after beating out 17 artists Tuesday for a place in the finals.
Eurovision, one of the longest-running TV programs in the world, is a campy and kitschy singing contest between members of the European Broadcasting Union. Israel won the singing competition three times in 1978, 1979 and 1998.
The joint artistic venture, announced just a day after Israel's deadly war on Gaza begun December 28, drew sharp criticism from Arabs and activists who saw the Euro-entry as a thinly disguised attempt to burnish the Jewish state’s image as it attacked the Palestinian territory.
Eurovision, known more for its over-the-top performances than its influence in international affairs, was seen as an opportunity for the Jewish state to send a message to Europe, one of its most critical audiences.
As the first Arab selected to represent Israel at Eurovision, Awad came under much criticism for agreeing to represent the Jewish state.
Israeli Arab artists organized a petition against the duet saying that they attempted to portray Israel as something it is not, especially in light of several accusations of war crimes committed against civilians in Gaza that emerged during the 22-day war.
However Nini and Awad said that winning did not matter so long as they got their message of peace across. Nini told Israel’s Army Radio Sunday morning that "we should be proud of our achievement."
"Although, in my opinion, the expectations were a little too high, we saw who we were up against, and although it could have been better, we are very satisfied, and we feel we really did something," she said.
Meanwhile 23-year-old Alexander Rybak from Norway fiddled his wayto a first win with the song Fairytale. Rybak scored a record 387 points, beating Iceland with 218 points and Azerbaijan with 207 points. It was the third time Norway has won the competition.