Pop superstar Madonna on Tuesday explained her decision to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel this week, saying that she will always speak up to defend human rights and hopes to see "a new path toward peace."
Madonna will make a guest appearance on Saturday during the Eurovision finals in Tel Aviv. The venue has prompted calls for a boycott by pro-Palestinian activists who want companies, performers and governments to disengage from Israel.
The popular Eurovision competition features musicians from more than 40 nations and was watched last year by some 189 million viewers in around 50 European countries.
In her first comment on her decision to sing at the event, Madonna said she was a supporter of all human rights.
"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.
Israel is hosting the Eurovision contest after local singer Netta Barzilai won last year. The winning country customarily hosts the following year.
Madonna, 60, is expected to perform two songs in Tel Aviv, one from her upcoming "Madame X" album to be released in June. She had taken her world tours to Israel in 2009 and 2012, and is a follower of the mystical form of Judaism called Kabbalah.
The singer's Ray of Light foundation, which promotes social justice and women's empowerment worldwide, supports a number of Palestinian projects.
They include funding teachers' salaries at schools in the Gaza Strip through the United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency UNRWA and micro loans to female farmers through the Palestine Fair Trade Association. The foundation also supports Americans for Peace Now, which campaigns for a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel has launched a PR campaign to counter calls for a boycott of the Eurovision contest by the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Security has been tight in Tel Aviv amid fears that activists may seek to disrupt the competition.
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