Pop superstar Madonna arrived in Israel on Tuesday night ahead of her planned performance at Saturday’s final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.
The singer defied calls by pro-Palestinian activists for her to boycott the contest, which runs from Tuesday till Saturday, though she has yet to sign the formal contract for her appearance on the stage at Expo Tel Aviv, where the competition is being held.
Madonna landed at Ben Gurion airport on a private jet, wearing a wide-brimmed hat that prevented waiting paparazzi from snapping her face, before being whisked away to the Dan Hotel, where she reportedly has taken over the entire fifth floor.
Earlier Tuesday Madonna said she was determined to perform at the Eurovision finals despite calls to boycott her for playing in Israel.
מדונה נחתה והיא בדרך למלון דן תל-אביב pic.twitter.com/T8IwA8qKjH
— Eran Swissa (@EranSwissa) May 14, 2019
“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,” the singer said in a statement carried by US media.
Madonna’s producers said in April that she would sing in the finals of the contest in Tel Aviv, which was designated the host city after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won in Portugal last year.
Her participation unleashed a storm of protests from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has for years been pushing for investors and artists to shun Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
“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,” said the legendary performer, whose string of hits in the 1980s and 90s included “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin.”
“I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace,” she added.
Eurovision organizers said Tuesday that the 60-year-old’s participation was not yet signed and sealed, and that the final contract for her participation had yet to be finalized.
“We are in a situation now that is a bit strange,” said Eurovision’s executive supervisor, Jon Ola Sand, at a news conference in Tel Aviv.
“We have an artist who would like to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, and who we would love to welcome on that stage, but for that we need to have the framework secured,” he said. “If there is no signed contract this week, she will not be on the stage.”
Israeli media said preparations for the star’s performance went ahead as scheduled, with a first shipment of equipment having arrived in the country on Monday.
The Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams is reportedly funding a large portion of Madonna’s $1.3 million fee and brought her to Israel on his private jet.
The semifinals of the contest kicked off on Tuesday, with more qualifiers scheduled for Thursday this week and the Grand Finale on Saturday.
Israel has won the Eurovision Song Contest four times, hosting twice in Jerusalem in 1979 and 1999.