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Eurovision threatens 'consequences' after Palestinian flag makes appearance

Icelandic band Hatari raise the Palestinian flag as the results are announced (Twitter)

Date of publication: 19 May, 2019

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Satirical Icelandic punk band Hatari raised Palestinian flags at Eurovision while Madonna's backing dancers displayed both Palestinian and Israeli flags.

Palestinian flags were on display at the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, much to the dismay of the competition’s organisers.

The contest, which was won by the Netherlands, has sparked a great deal of controversy due to the decision to host it in Israel, with more than 140 artists signing a letter to the Guardian calling for a boycott of the contest last September.

Iceland’s entry to Eurovision, the industrial-punk band Hatari, managed to raise banners displaying the Palestinian flag while the results were being announced despite Eurovision staff trying to confiscate them.

Hatari’s drummer Einar Hrafn Stefansson posted a video on Instagram showing two staff members telling the group, “Give me the flag of Palestine”, while a woman could be heard saying that they had other flags hidden.

The band, who dress in so-called BDSM outfits - bondage clothing including leather and whips – entered the contest with a song called “Hatred will prevail”.

They had previously said that the decision to host the contest in Israel was “absurd” and “built on a lie” and visited the Palestinian city of Hebron shortly after arriving for the contest, describing the situation there as “apartheid in action”.

Hatari also challenged Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to a Glima, a Nordic folk wrestling match, and said that they would demand the right to build a settlement in Israel if they won the contest, in what seemed like a reference to Israel’s continued settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Eurovision’s organisers said that Hatari could face punishment for their action, stating the contest’s executive board will “discuss the consequences of this action”.

On the other hand, Hatari’s action didn’t go far enough for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, who had called for a total boycott of Eurovision. In a tweet they said, “Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists”.

Another Palestinian flag was on display during Madonna’s performance at the concert. Two of the 61-year-old pop superstar’s backing dancers walked arm-in-arm, one wearing a Palestinian flag and the other an Israeli flag, in an apparent call for peace and unity.

Eurovision organisers condemned the display, saying "this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this."

Madonna had previously refused calls for a boycott of Eurovision, saying that she would "never stop playing music to suit someone's political agenda".

She faced heavy criticism for her decision to perform, with Bobby Gillespie, the outspoken lead singer of the band Primal Scream saying that she was ignoring the “disgraceful treatment of the Palestinian people” by taking part in the concert.

However, British Palestinian cultural journalist Jad Salfiti told The New Arab though the gesture provided a large platform for Palestine, it oversimplified the conflict.

"I think it's a small step forward for Palestinian identity to have visibility to a TV audience of 200 million people... these kinds of political gestures would never have happened five years ago with a mainstream artist like Madonna.

"But I do feel the gesture of having Palestine and Israel in her performance as a couple coexisting peacefully simplifies the situation to the idea that this is a domestic argument, rather than the reality which is that one high power group is occupying a low power group."

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