Palestinian flags at Eurovision irks Israel minister

Palestinian flags at Eurovision irks Israel minister
This handout photo released by KAN shows two of Madonna's dancers (foreground) side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs during her performance in an apparent call for unity. Madonna and US rapper Quavo performed during a guest appearance at the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 at Expo Tel Aviv on May 19, 2019, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (AFP / KAN / Orit Pnini)
Updated 20 May 2019

Palestinian flags at Eurovision irks Israel minister

Palestinian flags at Eurovision irks Israel minister
  • Madonna resisted calls from pro-Palestinian activists to boycott the event over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory
  • Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and it remains under occupation today

JERUSALEM: Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev on Sunday criticized the display of Palestinian flags during the Eurovision song contest finals in Tel Aviv, including by one of Madonna’s dancers.
“It was an error,” Regev, a right-wing minister known for provocative stances, told journalists before a cabinet meeting.
“Politics and a cultural event should not be mixed, with all due respect to Madonna.”
Regev criticized Israeli public broadcaster KAN for not having prevented the flags from being shown, though it was unclear what could have been done.
During Madonna’s performance at the Eurovision extravaganza, which began Saturday night and stretched into Sunday morning, two of her dancers could be seen side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs.
The gesture was an apparent call for unity, but Eurovision organizers seek to keep all politics out of the event and the display of Palestinian flags inside Israel is deeply controversial.
Madonna had not commented on the flags.
Separately, Icelandic group Hatari displayed scarfs with Palestinian flags when results were being announced.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, condemned both displays.
Referring to Madonna’s dancers, it said “this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals.”
“The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”
Madonna resisted calls from pro-Palestinian activists to boycott the event over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.
In a statement before the finals, Madonna said: “I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be.”
Regev also criticized KAN for not having filmed any of its “postcards” of participating singers in the occupied West Bank.
Each singer was filmed in scenic areas of Israel and some of the footage was aired during the show.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and it remains under occupation today.
Israeli settlements there are viewed as illegal under international law and are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel won the right to host Eurovision thanks to last year’s victory by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai.
The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence won this year’s Eurovision with his power ballad “Arcade.”