Madonna Surprises Eurovision With Palestinian Flag on Dancer's Back

Eurovision scolded the queen of pop for her political statement

Dancers wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags link arms during Madonna's performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019.
Orit Pnini / Courtesy of Kan public broadcaster

The Israeli organizers 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. 

In her second song, “Future,” sharp eyes could see that when two of her dancers turned their back, one had a Palestinian flag pinned to their back, while the other featured an Israeli flag, holding hands in a gesture of coexistence.

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An official Eurovision statement said this was not part of rehearsals and had not been cleared with the European Broadcasting Union or public broadcaster Kan. “The Eurovision Song Contest is a nonpolitical event and Madonna had been made aware of this,” the statement said.

The singer also raised eyebrows by including several dancers wearing gas masks, topped with crowns of flowers.

Madonna and her entourage, which numbered over 100 people, was flown into Israel by Canadian-Israeli billionaire businessman Sylvan Adams, who made the investment hoping that her participation would increase the positive impact of Israel hosting Eurovision, raising interest in the event in North America.

Adams said last week that Madonna was “a genuine friend of Israel, and she knows firsthand what our detractors — the lunatics from the BDS world — say is not true. She’s well aware about Eurovision and was keen to give it a boost.”

The performance was Madonna’s fourth in Israel — she previously took the stage in 1993,  2009 and 2012. She has also visited Israel on other occasions in the context of her interest and involvement in kabbala, the Jewish mystical movement, through which she adopted the Hebrew name Esther.

The Netherlands' Duncan Laurence beat out 25 other performers to win the grand final in Tel Aviv. Israel’s Kobi Marimi came in 23rd place.