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Eurovision: Madonna’s flag display on stage causes stir

May 19, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Screenshot from video of Madonna’s performance at the finals of the Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv, showing two dancers with the Palestinian and Israeli flags pinned to their back, on May 18, 2019 [screengrab / twitter]

The Israeli organisers of this year’s Eurovision feared that some of the competitors, under pressure from the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, might inject politics into their performances.

In the end, however, it was Eurovision’s special guest star, Madonna, who used her performance to make a political statement.

This year’s competition was more political than usual, held against the backdrop of a campaign by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that urged artists, fans and broadcasters to shun the event to protest against Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

While no singers or broadcasters pulled out, pop superstar Madonna sprang a surprise during her guest performance of two songs – her iconic 1989 hit “Like A Prayer” and a new number, “Future,” sung alongside the American rapper Quavo.

MEMO Special: Eurovision 2019

At the close of the second number, two backing dancers briefly appeared on stage wearing the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their costumes.

The European Broadcasting Union, which co-produced the contest alongside Israel’s national broadcaster, issued a statement immediately after her performance. “This element of the performance was not cleared with the EBU and the Host Broadcaster, KAN. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this,” it said, according to a report by Reuters.

Eurovision Israel 2019 - Learn about the Song ContestThe 60-year-old singer, who is a follower of the mystical form of Judaism called Kabbalah, had faced criticism from pro-Palestinian activists for performing at the event.

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She defended her decision, issuing a statement earlier in the week that she would always speak up to defend human rights, and that she hoped to see “a new path toward peace.”

Hatari, Iceland’s entrant, held up small Palestinian banners live on air during voting. The EBU said the political display “directly contradicts the contest rules.”

Read: Israel is ‘weaponising culture’, erasing Palestinian history with Eurovision