Pop superstar Madonna struck a defiant chord Tuesday, declaring that boycott calls will not stop her from make a guest appearance during the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv over the weekend.
“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,” Madonna said in a statement to Reuters.
Israel earned the right to host the Eurovision after local singer Netta Barzilai won the contest last year. Pro-Palestinian supporters of boycotting Israel have called for competitors and fans to shun the competition and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip have threatened to disrupt the event with rocket attacks on the country.
“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,” Madonna said. “I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace.”
Last September, some 140 artists, including former Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, called for a boycott of the song contest. In April, Waters made a personal appeal to Madonna to not perform at Eurovision, saying it “normalizes the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters.”
According to Reuters, Madonna supports several Palestinian projects through her Ray of Light foundation, which encourages social justice and women’s rights around the world.
Madonna, 60, is due to land in Israel on Wednesday morning, accompanied by an entourage of 135 people, ahead of her planned performance during the Eurovision finals on Saturday night.
On Monday, Eurovision executive producer Jon Ola Sand said her performance was not officially confirmed, since the European Broadcasting Union does not have a signed contract with her team.
Disagreements apparently remained regarding the EBU’s broadcasting rights for the performance, as the union is demanding all member networks be granted full rights to the materials.
“If we don’t have a signed contract, she can’t perform on that stage,” Sand said at a Monday night press conference at the Tel Aviv Expo. “We’re negotiating that now.”
Earlier Monday, the public relations team for Sylvan Adams, the Canadian-Israeli philanthropist who is reportedly funding a large portion of Madonna’s $1.3 million fee and bringing her to Israel on his private jet, stated that preparations for Madonna’s performance were already taking place.
She is expected to perform two songs in Tel Aviv, one of which will be drawn from her upcoming “Madame X” album, which is scheduled for release in June, Reuters reported.
Daniel Benaim, the CEO of the Comtec Group, an Israeli events producer that is handling the singer’s production in Israel, said in a press release that her performance was a complicated one, with demands and standards similar to those of other international performers.
A portion of Madonna’s stage set arrived in Israel on Monday, on a cargo plane loaded with 30 tons of equipment, including 70 stairs and and an elevator that will be part of the Eurovision stage. Other preparations include a backstage tent complex for Madonna’s team and four full rehearsals.
Madonna’s entourage includes rapper KoVu, a choir of 40 people, 25 dancers and dozens of choreographers, staging, lighting, and video art personnel for her performance.
According to local promoter Live Nation, the $1.3 million price tag for a 15-minute Madonna performance will be paid by Adams.
Madonna has performed in Israel three times: in 1993, 2009, and during the summer of 2012.
A longtime Kabbalah enthusiast, she has made pilgrimages to Israel on several occasions as well.