Eurovision 2019: Madonna refuses to cancel performance in Israel despite calls from Palestinian activists

Madonna is standing by her decision to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel this week despite calls from pro-Palestinian organisations for the singer to boycott the event in protest at human rights abuses by the state.

The Queen of Pop confirmed that she will make the guest appearance at the annual competition in Tel Aviv on Saturday as scheduled, saying that while the violence and deaths break her heart, she will not bow to political pressures.

“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,” the singer said in a statement to Reuters.

“My heart breaks every time I hear about the innocent lives that are lost in this region and the violence that is so often perpetuated to suit the political goals of people who benefit from this ancient conflict.

“I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace,” she added.

The Ray of Light foundation

Israel is hosting the Eurovision song contest this year after its entrant Netta Barzilai won the competition in 2018.

Madonna, 60, will stage two songs in Tel Aviv, including one from her forthcoming album Madame X, which is set to be released in June.

The singer, who practices a mystical form of Judaism called Kabbalah, has performed in Israel several times, including during her world tours in 2009 and 2012.

Last year Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal (Photo: Armando Franca)

Her Ray of Light foundation supports a number of projects in Palestine, including funding teachers’ salaries at schools on the Gaza Strip and the United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA). The foundation, which promotes social justice and female empowerment worldwide, also supports Americans for Peace Now, which campaigns for a diplomatic solution to the historic Israel-Palestine conflict.

Meanwhile, the State of Israel has launched its own PR offensive against the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Security throughout Tel Aviv has been ramped up ahead of the event over fears activists could disrupt proceedings on Saturday.

Severe human rights restrictions

According to the Human Rights Watch 2019 report on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Israeli government continues to enforce severe restrictions on the human rights of Palestinians, including the discriminatory restriction of movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip. It also facilitates the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank.

During demonstrations for the rights of Palestinians between 30 March and 19 November last year, Israeli forces stationed on the Israeli side of the fence separating Gaza and Israel were found to have used excessive and lethal force on protesters, killing 189, 31 of which were children and three medical workers.

More than 5,800 Palestinians were wounded by live fire. By comparison, Palestinian protesters threw rocks, used slingshots and “Molotov cocktails”, damaging property in nearby Israeli communities.

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