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Israel minister slams display of Palestinian flags at Eurovision Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel minister slams display of Palestinian flags at Eurovision

Regev slammed the move as an 'error' [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 May, 2019

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Israel's culture minister slammed the display of Palestinian flags during the Eurovision song contest finals in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev on Sunday criticised the display of Palestinian flags during the Eurovision song contest finals in Tel Aviv, including by one of Madonna's dancers.

"It was an error," Regev, a right-wing minister known for provocative stances, told journalists before a cabinet meeting.

"Politics and a cultural event should not be mixed, with all due respect to Madonna."

Regev criticised Israeli public broadcaster KAN for not having prevented the flags from being shown, though it was unclear what could have been done.

During Madonna's performance at the Eurovision extravaganza, which began Saturday night and stretched into Sunday morning, two of her dancers could be seen side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs.

The gesture was an apparent call for unity, but Eurovision organisers seek to keep all politics out of the event and the display of Palestinian flags inside Israel is deeply controversial.

Madonna had not commented on the flags.

Separately, Icelandic group Hatari displayed scarfs with Palestinian flags when results were being announced.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, condemned both displays.

Referring to Madonna's dancers, it said "this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals".

"The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this."

Madonna resisted calls from pro-Palestinian activists to boycott the event over Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.

In a statement before the finals, Madonna said: "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.”

She faced heavy criticism for her decision to perform, with Bobby Gillespie, the outspoken lead singer of the band Primal Scream saying that she was ignoring the “disgraceful treatment of the Palestinian people” by taking part in the concert.

However, British Palestinian cultural journalist Jad Salfiti told The New Arab though the gesture provided a large platform for Palestine, it oversimplified the conflict.

"I think it's a small step forward for Palestinian identity to have visibility to a TV audience of 200 million people... these kinds of political gestures would never have happened five years ago with a mainstream artist like Madonna. 

"But I do feel the gesture of having Palestine and Israel in her performance as a couple coexisting peacefully simplifies the situation to the idea that this is a domestic argument, rather than the reality which is that one high power group is occupying a low power group."

Regev also criticised KAN for not having filmed any of its "postcards" of participating singers in the occupied West Bank.

Each singer was filmed in scenic areas of Israel and some of the footage was aired during the show.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and it remains under occupation today.

Israeli settlements there are viewed as illegal under international law and are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Israel won the right to host Eurovision thanks to last year's victory by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai.

The Netherlands' Duncan Laurence won this year's Eurovision with his power ballad "Arcade."

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