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Palestinians reject Madonna’s ‘fig-leaf gestures of solidarity’

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on 18 Comments

The veteran pop star Madonna performed her guest-gig in the Israel-hosted Eurovision on Saturday, despite calls for boycott by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urged Madonna to reconsider her participation, arguing that “true solidarity means heeding the call of the oppressed”:

Would you have played in Sun City at the height of Apartheid in South Africa, crossing the boycott picket line set by the majority black population? 

A very good question – to which Madonna answered:

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.

This is a hugely problematic answer. The Eurovision in Israel was already a highly politicized event, which was even pointed out by Netta, last year’s winner, who said after her win that “we have done something crazy [fantastic] for Israeli Hasbara”.  Just one small sign of this was how Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster, used the occasion for marketing occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories as “Israel”.

And the fact that the BDS movement has been calling for a boycott of Israel since 2005 makes participation in such an event inevitably political – just as it was for Frank Sinatra when he performed in Sun City in defiance of the anti-apartheid boycott in 1981, for the sum of $2 million.

Madonna added:

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.

Here Madonna (who also calls herself “Esther” due to her Kabbalist interests), is applying not only emotional kitsch, but also subtle historical distortion. By calling the “conflict” “ancient”, Madonna seems to erase the settler-colonialist reality of Zionism. Calling it a “conflict” in general blurs the reality of the oppressor vs the oppressed, and “cycle of destruction” suggests a rather equal power-relation. In other words, Madonna is peddling “peace” Hasbara.

And there’s money involved. Over a million dollars. Israeli-Canadian businessman Sylvan Adams is reported to be footing the bill, estimated at about $1.3 million. Adams has contributed to the recent failed Israeli spacecraft landing on the moon, and now he sought to land Esther in Israel for the Eurovision.

That’s what was behind PACBI’s additional statement:

Artwashing Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians for a million dollars must be among the most immoral political agendas.

But Madonna was not only artwashing Israel — she had to artwash herself after having committed the immoral deed. A hint of her soft critique was presented between the two songs she sang at the Eurovision (see 5:00 in video). Here she held a little recitation:

They are so naïve. They think we are not aware of their crimes. We know, that we are just not ready to act. The storm isn’t in the air – it’s inside of us. I want to tell you about love and loneliness, but it’s getting late now. Can’t you hear outside of your supreme hoodie, the wind that’s beginning to howl?

This statement, reflected against Madonna’s intransigence, comes across as particularly chauvinist, patronizing, naïve and coy. Is Madonna not ready to act? Just like she puts on her massive shows, she can also decide to decline, but she doesn’t. Her decisions to violate the boycott picket line are not “inaction”, but rather active, witting violations, for a political agenda that is Israeli, not Palestinian.

Madonna dancers wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags.

Madonna dancers wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags.

Madonna inserted another, more explicit “critique”, where two of her dancers had small Palestinian and Israeli flags patched on their backs, and they walked hand in hand. This bit was widely noticed and commented upon as a ‘radical’ statement. An official Eurovision statement said this was not part of rehearsals and had not been cleared with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) or public broadcaster Kan. “The Eurovision Song Contest is a nonpolitical event and Madonna had been made aware of this,” the statement said. But the Eurovision has already been highly politicized. That statement is as lame as the statement in response to the marketing of occupied territories as “Israel”, in which EBU simply repeated the old mantra of the Eurovision being apolitical, even without rebuke of the Israeli Kan Public Broadcaster.

So Madonna is somehow being viewed as a “radical” after all. As an ending of her performance, where the second song was sung together with the rapper Quavo, the words “WAKE UP” were projected on the scene. Who should wake up? Madonna does not define the culprits and the victims. Everyone should just wake up – Esther has a prophetic message of peace.

And that is how Madonna, aka Esther, tried to have her cake and eat it too.

Like Madonna, the Icelandic group Hatari demonstrated a faint gesture of “solidarity” by lifting Palestinian banners featuring the Palestinian flag with the writing “Palestine” on it, and they did so with sad faces when they were hearing the final point results, and it was obvious they were not winning.

PACBI was not impressed:

Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line”… “Artists who insist on crossing the Palestinian boycott picket line, playing in Tel Aviv in defiance of our calls, cannot offset the harm they do to our human rights struggle by ‘balancing’ their complicit act with some project with Palestinians. Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects this fig-leafing,” the group said. “The most meaningful expression of solidarity is to cancel performances in apartheid Israel.”

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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18 Responses

  1. brent
    brent on May 20, 2019, 12:32 pm

    Palestinian success seems to bank on taking down the American political system, a pretty high hurdle. The US Senate, as I recall voted 100 to 0 on moving the embassy. Trump moved it to West Jerusalem saying, “In making these announcements, I also want to make one point very clear: This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”

    Madonna’s “WAKE UP” call seems directed at both sides. If Palestinians sever relations with America on something that is a given under any plausible outcome, this may set back their cause for a generation. Rebuking an egotistical bully will likely have unintended consequences beyond stopping monies and visas. Some study in psychology, public relations and diplomacy may be in order. Those who believe the ultimate objective is not peaceful co-existence are likely more unsure.

    Wondering, what are all those voices missing who say the 2SS is not plausible?

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus on May 20, 2019, 2:31 pm

      Brent,

      “Palestinian success seems to bank on taking down the American political system, a pretty high hurdle.”

      Correct. That is the minimum condition if justice is to be served at all. But we’re not talking justice, only some Palestinian success. And you’re absolutely right: any compromise, be it even so small, must be considered as “Palestinian success”. So far so good.

      Now, can you please point to any compromise, or credible intention to compromise, or possibility of compromise on the US-Zionist side? I mean during the whole history from Oslo on. In the absence of armed, credible threat to inflict serious damage there can be no need at all to compromise, and there won’t be anything but further moves like the embassy move or the next massacre. That should have been crystal clear to even the stupidest after all those years.

      No need to “set back their [the Palestinians’] cause for generations” when there was no progress from anywhere before that. There won’t be any progress before the US-Zionist empire gets stung again.

    • eljay
      eljay on May 20, 2019, 6:24 pm

      || brent @ May 20, 2019, 12:32 pm ||

      Israel – with unwavering politicial, economic, military and financial support from the U.S.:
      – has stolen, militarily-occupied and colonized most of geographic Palestine (including the Free City of Jerusalem);
      – continues to prevent the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians it ethnically cleansed from within its (Partition) borders from returning to their homes and lands; and
      – has demanded recognition as a “Jewish State”, a recognition that necessarily implies acceptance by the non-Jews in and of I-P of their second-class citizen status in a religion-supremacist state.

      I’m curious to know what psychological, public relations and/or diplomatic offerings Palestinians can make to Israel and the U.S. that will change Zionist and American hearts and minds and bring justice, accountability and equality – a genuine “great deal” – to I-P.

      Thanks.

      • brent
        brent on May 21, 2019, 1:53 am

        “I’m curious to know what psychological, public relations and/or diplomatic offerings Palestinians can make to Israel and the U.S. that will change Zionist and American hearts and minds and bring justice, accountability and equality – a genuine “great deal” – to I-P.”

        For starters, it is irresponsible to rebuke a powerful person with an ego issue and is into power games. Better to disagree agreeably. Many Presidents have tried to make a difference. Reagan with the Rogers plan. HWB and James Baker tried reducing monies based on settlements. Carter tried. Bill Clinton spent his last hour at Taba. W and Obama timidly tried. Could be Trump realized the necessity of having Israel in his debt. He must be smart enough to know his success will require a Palestinian buy-in, not a kick down. I think it is instructive that Trump wanted the President of South Korea to nominate him for a Nobel. One thing Trump is not is ideological and he is standing up to the deep state…. at times of his choosing.

        Israel’s most powerful asset is the victim narrative. We’ve all heard hundreds of times, “Israel has the right to defend itself”. It’s carefully cultivated to control public discourse, therefore Congress and to “TAKE” money and backing from this system of competing interests. That narrative needs to go and it will take determination, discipline, savvy…… good PR, to bring that about. Echinococcus thinks a violent sting is the only way but I can’t recall that being productive or do anything but reinforce the victim narrative. Demanding “security” has been a double game with its opposite the objective. A civil rights campaign, equality, is a path to taking down the victim narrative, the replace us narrative, to making allies in Congress (especially those resentful of that bit in their mouth), Americans (especially American Jews) and facilitating a workable two-state solution if there is one to be found.

        Diplomacy employs respect, clarifications, counteroffers, persuasion and the like. While Trump doesn’t fit the diplomatic mold and seems willing to crush lemons to make lemonade. He is a thought “disrupter” with a giant ego and can produce good or ill. He can be played…. and craves respect.

      • eljay
        eljay on May 21, 2019, 8:47 am

        || brent: … A civil rights campaign, equality, is a path to taking down the victim narrative, the replace us narrative, to making allies in Congress (especially those resentful of that bit in their mouth), Americans (especially American Jews) and facilitating a workable two-state solution if there is one to be found.

        Diplomacy employs respect, clarifications, counteroffers, persuasion and the like. … ||

        Thanks for the reply. Your approach may deliver “peace” to I-P more quickly than will the current approach, but I honestly don’t see how it is any more likely to deliver justice, accountability and equality to I-P.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus on May 22, 2019, 12:16 am

        “Many Presidents have tried to make a difference”
        Yeah, the only difference they ever tried for has always been more US-Zionist oppression and conquest.

        The only times in Palestinian (and otherwise world) history when the enemy has made any concessions is when there has been anything to force it, not when they are sitting pretty. All concessions bar none were extorted by substantial physical/economical pain inflicted to the US-Zionist enemy by Palestinian or Lebanese resistance.
        Your method, ie being nice to your executioner when he holds absolutely all the cards, has been tried millions of times and continues to be recommended by the executioners themselves.

  2. Jonathan Ofir
    Jonathan Ofir on May 20, 2019, 1:48 pm

    Brent:
    ‘Trump moved [the embassy] to West [by Israel, the ‘united capital] Jerusalem saying, “In making these announcements, I also want to make one point very clear: This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”’

    The moving of the embassy is in itself taking a position on final status issues. Jerusalem is one of those. It is Israel’s unilateral annexation, cemented in ‘base law’ (1980) that has made the issue of having an embassy anywhere in Jerusalem, a politically partisan issue, siding with Israel, since the annexation is a flagrant violation of international law, and considered null and void by the UNSC.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso on May 21, 2019, 9:23 am

      @Jonathan Ofir, et al

      Re embassy move:

      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-a-year-after-trump-s-embassy-move-only-one-country-has-followed-u-s-to-jerusalem-1.7227246

      “Evangelicals and Empty Promises: A Year After Trump’s Embassy Move, Only One Country Has Followed U.S. to Jerusalem”

      “12 months ago, President Donald Trump broke one of the international community’s greatest taboos. However, despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s best efforts to leverage the historic moment, Guatemala is the only other state to have followed suit. Here’s why” – Noa Landau, Haaretz,
      May 14/19

      EXCERPT:
      “On May 14, 2018, President Donald Trump broke a decades-old diplomatic taboo and relocated the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The move forced the rest of the international community to examine its policy on Israel’s capital for the first time since the 1980s, when a UN resolution deemed that no diplomatic missions should be stationed in the contested city.

      “In the past year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it his mission to turn the diplomatic tide in Jerusalem’s favor, courting numerous countries — especially those with large evangelical communities — and using his close ties with the U.S. president to try to leverage them to relocate their own embassies as well.

      “An examination by Haaretz, based on interviews with diplomats and a review of Netanyahu’s own statements and news reports, reveals what has come in the wake of Trump’s initial decision: Which countries have committed in principle but failed to make good on their word? What has been the favored diplomatic solution? And what are the factors that seemingly influence this process?

      “The question of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has been a contentious global issue since Israel’s first government recognized the western part of the city as the country’s capital in the late 1940s — a decision further expanded to include East Jerusalem in 1967.”

  3. PTG
    PTG on May 20, 2019, 2:08 pm

    It’s all left to personal interpretation but look closely how dancers representing palestinians and dancers representing Israeli look like. Palestinian dancers are dressed in white virginal gowns wearing gas masks with crowns of flowers on their heads. Israeli dancers are dressed in all black, looking menacing.
    Madonna was paid by that billionaire with a history of putting his money into washing what Israel is doing to palestinians. He went on in interviews about how he wanted the eurovision to showcase how great Isreal is. Do you think he was happy with the outcome that looks nothing like Madonna’s usual light entertainment but is dark, chaotic with fire all over the place. Not friendly at all.
    Do you think Madonna added the lines “They think we are naive, that we are not aware of their crimes ?” gratuitously ? Isn’t she disrupting the spectacle that was happening so far without mentioning Palestine and the terrible things that are happening in the west bank ?
    “Wake up” put together with her previous lines is telling viewers “don’t be fooled by the show you are watching while something bad is going on”.
    Without her and Hatari no mention would have been done of Palestine. Everything would have gone according to plan if they did not go.
    For my part i’d rather see a palestinian flag on screen than none at all. But most of all the reactions by some israeli and Likud MP losing their minds at seeing these flags on tv. They are just flags. Their reactions to it is what matters the most and says it all imho.
    As for Madonna i direct you to her rayoflight.org foundation to see the work she’s doing for Gaza schools and women businesses in the west bank.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso on May 21, 2019, 9:46 am

      @PTG

      Well said!!

      To be brief:
      It is wrong to condemn Madonna. Bottom line: In defiance of her Zionist promoter, she used the Eurovision platform in Tel Aviv (the “belly of the beast”) to draw attention to the suffering of the indigenous Palestinians. As a result, she is now most definitely in “Israel’s” bad books, but more and more people around the world, especially youth, who knew little, if anything about their plight, are now curious to learn more.

  4. JaapBo
    JaapBo on May 20, 2019, 3:18 pm

    In my view, showing a Palestinian flag is better than nothing, although I wish the boycott would grow faster ….

  5. just
    just on May 20, 2019, 6:53 pm

    Thanks for this article, Jonathan. I’ve been going cross- eyed reading the coverage of the ‘protests’ by Iceland’s band and Madonna aka Esther who did the opposite of what Palestinian civil society asked. They put lipstick on the pig and that is all. It’s actually more detrimental to justice to have done as they did. Hypocrites waving a banner for profit and fame., exploiting the suffering of the Palestinians. ugh.

    All of this happened during Ramadan, but who really cares? Certainly not Israel/Israelis. This is also happening during Ramadan, and here I go mostly O/T:

    “The Israeli Army Trains in Bedouin’s Backyard, Even During Holy Fasting Month of Ramadan
    Shepherds in the West Bank have to leave their tents behind because of the military exercises

    Worried about fires, they moved up the wheat harvest, even though the crop still wasn’t ready. No, this is not about the fields of the kibbutzim near the Gaza border, but Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley. Six fires that didn’t make it into the headlines in Israel broke out there from the middle of the week of May 5, four of them this past week and all as a result of military exercises.

    When it became known that the army planned to hold live-fire exercises during most of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday in the middle of their fields and grazing land, the first thing many landowners and tenant farmers did was rent combines and send them to the carpets of wheat and barley. Having learned from experience, they knew that the intensive exercises in the harsh heat would cause fires and wanted to rescue as much of their invested energy and money they could.

    They also assumed that there would be no one to put out the fires that were far enough from the army bases and settlements, but close to the community of herders. Naturally, when a fire breaks out, the shepherds first try to extinguish it by themselves, but especially during periods of live-fire training exercise the fear is that a dud piece of ammunition will blow up in their hands.

    “We were surprised, of course we were surprised,” said Harb Abu al-Kabash. “We didn’t think they would come to train in the month of Ramadan. Once they respected Ramadan, but no longer.” …”

    much more @ https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/how-the-israeli-army-trains-in-bedouin-s-backyard-during-ramadan-1.7253482
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Today:

    “Israeli Court Rejects Petition to Bar Religious Zionist March From Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter

    Left-wing organization Ir Amim had field a petition to bar the annual march from passing
    through the Muslim Quarter due to it coinciding with the final days of Ramadan

    The petition, filed by the left-wing organization Ir Amim, had argued that letting the march pass through the Muslim Quarter would be even more offensive than usual to residents, because the holiday falls during the final days of Ramadan this year.

    Jerusalem Day marks Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, and every year tens of thousands of religious Zionist youths march through the Old City, including its Muslim Quarter. Since the anniversary is marked according to the Hebrew calendar, it will fall on June 2 this year.

    But Justices Noam Sohlberg, Yael Willner and Ofer Grosskopf said they would not interfere with the police’s decisions on route marchers will take. “The current situation correctly balances between freedom of expression and the rights of those marching in the flag march, on one hand, and the collective and individual interests of Old City residents on the other,” the justices wrote in their ruling. …”

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-justices-won-t-bar-religious-zionist-march-from-jerusalem-muslim-quarter-1.7269785?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    No respect is afforded to Palestinians by Israelis. Not for the Christians, not for the Muslims, not for the agnostics. Nobody at all. No infants, children, adoloscents, young folks, middle aged, elderly, single, married, divorced, disabled, gifted, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, grands. The only distinguishing feature is that they are Palestinian. Hell’s bells~ remember how Ramadan started this year?

    “Gaza laments deadly start to Ramadan, amid funerals and debris”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-aftermath-gaza/gaza-laments-deadly-start-to-ramadan-amid-funerals-and-debris-idUSKCN1SC13C

    Remember Ramadan 2014 in Gaza? I do.

    “Ramadan in Gaza: life under missile-fire”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/11/ramadan-gaza-life-under-missile-fire

  6. Atlantaiconoclast
    Atlantaiconoclast on May 20, 2019, 10:46 pm

    The reality is that very few Americans are motivated to take a stand because even Palestinian activists fail to explain how Israel has harmed the American people over the years, from the USS Liberty, the Lavon Affair, the Jonathan Pollard Scandal, to the push for the Iraq War and Israel’s role in the current push for war with Iran, not to mention Israel’s role in destabilizing Syria. Madonna is a not a cruel, uncaring person. Maybe if she knew the extent of Israel’s crimes, she too would care more for a just settlement for Palestine.

  7. Jonathan Ofir
    Jonathan Ofir on May 21, 2019, 2:13 am

    Atlantaiconoclast:
    “Madonna is a not a cruel, uncaring person. Maybe if she knew the extent of Israel’s crimes, she too would care more for a just settlement for Palestine.”

    It’s because she trusts Americans for Peace Now to inform her about how ‘peace’ can be achieved. Now look at what Yossi Alpher, who writes weekly security Q&A’s for Americans for Peace Now, expresses himself:

    “[A] major Israeli military offensive to reconquer the Gaza Strip and physically eliminate the Islamists there… is undoubtedly feasible. Countless politicians, including Netanyahu, have periodically promised to do precisely this. But then they confront the reality that this scenario would almost certainly involve hundreds of Israeli dead and would leave Israel responsible for the welfare of over two million Gazans under a new occupation.”

    https://mondoweiss.net/2019/05/mainstream-palestinians-violations/

    When Palestinian civil society urged her to cancel, she ignored it because it had a “political agenda”. I don’t think she’s stupid – I think she picked her side, and that this makes her indeed cruel and uncaring, under the guise of a peacenik.

  8. Marnie
    Marnie on May 23, 2019, 1:37 am

    madonna’s sez her heart breaks about the ‘ancient conflict’? The ‘ancient conflict’ is technically 11 years older than herself. WTF is she talking about?

    • eljay
      eljay on May 23, 2019, 8:31 am

      || Marnie: madonna’s sez her heart breaks about the ‘ancient conflict’? The ‘ancient conflict’ is technically 11 years older than herself. WTF is she talking about? ||

      I thought it was cute how she Zionistically transformed a blatant act of mid-20th century ethnic cleansing and colonialism committed by Jewish supremacists (Zionists) and their (war) criminal state into some sort of mythical “ancient conflict” between the forces of:
      – good (Jews / Israeli(te)s); and
      – evil (non-Jews / Palestinians / Ayerabs / Mooslims).

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