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Weeks before the release of her Madame X album, Madonna took the stage at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.
The event took place Saturday night in Tel Aviv, Israel, where the 60-year-old entertainer performed her Quavo assisted-single "Future." As expected, the Migos rapper made an appearance during Madonna's set, despite the controversy surrounding this year's grand finale.
Many activists called for an international boycott of this year's Eurovision because it was hosted in Israel. Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, called on Madonna not to perform at the event. "Some of my fellow musicians who have recently performed in Israel say they are doing it to build bridges and further the cause of peace. Bullshit," Waters wrote. "To perform in Israel is a lucrative gig but to do so serves to normalise the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters … all that bad stuff."
A group of more than 30 Pro-Palestinian organizations explained their opposition in an open letter published last week.
The letter reads in part:
Even when Israel bombs us, imprisons our men, women and children, kills and maims thousands of Palestinian protesters ... and does everything to silence our voices, we will continue to sing. We ask for people of conscience around the world to heed our call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Apartheid Israel just as they did to help bring down Apartheid in South Africa.
Madonna said she would not give into the pressure.
"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 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."
But the controversy didn't end there. During Madonna's performance with Quavo, one of her backup dancers was seen wearing the Palestinian flag, while another was donning the Israeli flag. The two dancers then embraced each other toward the end of the performance, signaling a call for Palestinian-Israeli unity. This stunt, which drew mixed reactions from the audience, was reportedly unplanned.
"This element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been cleared with the EBU and the host broadcaster, KAN," event organizers wrote in a statement to the Independent. "The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”
You can watch clips from Madonna and Quavo's performance below. Madame X is scheduled to drop June 14.