USA – Madonna — the pop icon behind the titular persona fueling the aesthetic of her upcoming 14th studio album — headlined a two-song set Saturday during the final night of the 64th annual continental song competition in Tel Aviv, Israel, dipping into her catalog of hits for a hip-hop-inspired rendition of classic song “Like a Prayer” as well as grooving through the new track “Future” featuring rapper Quavo. But, the 60-year-old also ruffled feathers after viewers noticed a pair of Madonna’s dancers brandishing the Palestinian and Israeli flags on their backs as they embraced each other — widely seen as a political statement on the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The set also saw several background performers falling to the ground while wearing gas masks, and concluded with Madonna and Quavo holding hands as the words “wake up” flashed on a large screen behind them.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 18, 2019
In a statement to EW, the European Broadcasting Union — producer of the Eurovision contest — addressed the dancers’ outfits, confirming that “this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been cleared with the EBU and the Host Broadcaster, KAN.” The statement goes on to note “the Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”
A representative for Madonna provided EW with a photo of the performance with a note that “a message of peace is not political.”
In addition to performing, Madonna appeared for a brief interview during Eurovision’s live telecast, telling the audience “The one thing that brings me to [these] countries and the thing that brings all of these people here tonight is music, so let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together.” She then quoted her 2000 single “Music” by saying: “Music makes the people come together, yeah!”