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News > Israel

Madonna, Iceland Band Hatari Face 'Punishment' for Showing Palestinian Flag at Eurovision Finale

  • Two dancers from Madonna's performance were wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags.

    Two dancers from Madonna's performance were wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 May 2019

During Madonna's performance, two dancers were wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags drawing flak from the broadcaster for showing political content. 

Pop star Madonna and Iceland’s band Hatari roused controversy for showing Palestinian flag during the finale of Eurovision, a song contest engulfed in protests for being held in Tel Aviv, Israel.


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Madonna sprang a surprise during her guest performance of two songs. 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.

During the point-tally of Saturday's final, members of the eclectic punk ensemble Hatari, which came 10th, held up scarf-sized Palestinian flags which read “Palestine” in bright red lettering, as way to protest Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and express dismay that Israel was allowed to host despite its history of human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

A vocalist, Klemens Nikulasson Hannigan, flashed a V-for-victory sign.

The Israeli broadcaster of the Eurovision Song Contest said Sunday that an unauthorized display of Palestinian flags by Iceland's band could draw "punishment" from the event's organizers.


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In earlier remarks to Eurovision fan site wiwibloggs, Hannigan had criticized Israel's settlements and described it as "apartheid" in occupied Palestinian territory.

"The Icelanders will apparently be punished by the European Broadcasting Union, which is really not tolerant of those who violate its rules," Eldad Koblenz, CEO of the EBU's Israeli counterpart Kan, told Ynet TV.

An EBU spokesman declined direct comment, saying the matter was under discussion.

EBU rules allow for disqualifying contestants who do not abide by requirements for a "non-political event". Asked what other penalties might be available, the spokesman said, "In the past, there have been financial sanctions for rule breaches." He did not elaborate on these cases or sums.

Their flag display did not impress the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, which had urged countries to shun the Tel Aviv Eurovision.

"Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line #Hatari," the campaigners said on Twitter.

Critics of Israel's hosting of the event accused the country of trying to whitewash its crimes using popular entertainment to draw attention away from the subject of their occupation.

In January, 60 LGBT groups also signed a statement accusing Israel of distracting “attention from its war crimes against Palestinians” and “forwarding its pinkwashing agenda, the cynical use of gay rights to distract from and normalize Israel’s occupation, settler colonialism, and apartheid.”

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