American pop star Madonna has come under fire after confirming her appearance at the upcoming 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.
The 60-year-old singer/songwriter is set to perform at the show's finale on May 18 for an estimated $1.5 million fee, drawing criticism from advocates of the Palestinian cause.
Activists have thus launched an online campaign urging Madonna to take a stand against Israel's human rights abuses and cancel her performance in Tel Aviv.
The 2019 Eurovision, a competition held primarily among member countries of the European Broadcasting Union, is scheduled for May 14-18. As part of the competition, each member country submits one song to be performed on live television, after which viewers vote for their favorite song. Israeli Netta Barzilai won the competition in 2018. The tradition of Eurovision states that the winning country is to be the host of the following year's show.
Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement say hosting Eurovision comes in line with Israel's attempts to gain positive coverage and stir attention away from its crimes against the Palestinians.
According to The Independent, as a longstanding icon and ally for the queer community, Madonna "appeals to Eurovision's LGBT+ fan-base and fits in neatly with the pinkwashing marketing strategy."
"Israel is shamelessly using Eurovision as part of its official Brand Israel strategy, which presents 'Israel's prettier face' to whitewash and distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians," reads a statement shared on the official BDS website.
Just last month, a United Nations inquiry confirmed that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting unarmed children, journalists, and disabled individuals in response to the Great March of Return demonstrations in 2018. According to the report, Israeli forces killed 183 Palestinians at the time, including 35 children.
In light of Israel's ongoing human rights violations, activists have called for the boycott of the 2019 Eurovision. In January, a number of British cultural figures signed a letter calling on the BBC not to broadcast the song contest. In response, the BBC affirmed its coverage of the event, claiming the latter is "not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign." However, according to The Independent, Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams - reportedly the one paying for Madonna's performance - sees this as an opportunity to "boost" Israel's image.
Activists have also called out Madonna for taking part in the show, with many taking to social media to urge her to scrap her performance, under the hashtag #MadonnaDontGo.
Additionally, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have put forth an online petition with a statement that reads:
"There's no neutrality in situations of injustice. Please stand with us on the right side of history to create a better world for all and cancel your performance at Eurovision. If you believe in equality and dignity for all, you will choose not to lend your star-power to the far-right Israeli government that is using Eurovision to cover up their continued human rights abuses. Your performance at Eurovision will bring harm to the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality."
Back in 2012, Madonna took the stage in Israel for a concert in which she wished for an end to "all the conflicts that have been occurring here (in the Middle East) for thousands of years."
She later stood up for Palestinian children during the 2014 Gaza War, also known as Operation Protective Edge, which saw Israeli forces kill more than 2,100 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in less than two months.
She wrote on Instagram at the time:
"These flowers are like the innocent children of GAZA! Who has a right to destroy them? No One!!!! CEASE FIRE! #peaceinthemiddleeast [sic]."
According to Sky News, if she goes ahead with this year's performance, Madonna would have performed in Israel for the fourth time - 1993, 2009, 2012, and 2019.