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Israeli's song win 'defeats bigotry'
May 11, 1998

The Israeli winner of the 1998 Eurovision song contest said yesterday that her victory represented a defeat for bigotry fueled by religious prejudices.

Dana International -- a 26-year-old pop singer who underwent a sex change operation four years ago -- called her victory a "gift" for Israel's 50th anniversary. Her entry Diva edged out Britain, Malta and Holland in the televised contest held in Birmingham on Saturday.

Ultraorthodox Israeli Jews had protested at her choice to represent the country in the international event, and a prominent rabbi called her an "abomination". The singer said her victory showed that all her religious critics were wrong.

Israel's Education Minister, Yitzhak Levy, a leader of the National Religious Party, issued a statement praising the Israeli contestants, but made no specific reference to Dana International. Left-wing politicians said the singer had done the entire nation -- and particularly its transgendered and gay communities -- proud.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain said yesterday: "Dana International's sexuality is totally irrelevant to her ability to sing well or perform on behalf of her country; just as anybody else's sexuality should have no bearing on their professional life unless it interferes with their work. What is much more disturbing is hostility directed towards transsexuals, who experience a major conflict of identity."

Last night the German rock star, Guildo Horn, was celebrating after it was disclosed that an error in voting robbed him of seventh place in the contest. A blunder by the Spanish poll collectors led to the singer missing out on a vital 12 points. Yesterday the BBC announced that he had been awarded his rightful seventh position, and Norway's entry had moved down to eighth.

by Ohad Gozani in Tel-Aviv, Daily Telegraph

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