The Netherlands might have won the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv, but it was Madonna’s political message that stole the spotlight.
After rumors of creative interference by the European Broadcasting Union were swirling in local media in the days leading up to the live show, Madonna took the stage at Tel Aviv Expo as part of the interval act in the annual European event on Saturday night (May 18) and flashed Israeli and Palestinian flags alongside each other.
She performed “Like a Prayer” and “Future,” her new collaboration with Migos’ Quavo, who joined her onstage. The 9-minute showcase ended with the two walking up a flight of stairs as two dancers appeared with their backs to the crowd. A tall man in black with the Israeli flag on his back held hands with a girl in white with the Palestinian flag on hers, and the words “WAKE UP” flashed on the screen.
“Madame X is a freedom Fighter,” wrote the entertainer on Twitter early Sunday morning (May 19) in a caption for the clip of the controversial moment. “I am grateful. For the opportunity to spread the message of peace and unity with the world.”
— Madonna (@Madonna) May 19, 2019
During the broadcast, a pre-recorded interview with Madonna rolled to promote her forthcoming album Madame X in which she teased, “Baby, I’m going to bring the heat tonight!”
Backlash in the Holy Land soon followed with some calling the Material Girl out. The European Broadcasting Union and Israeli public broadcaster KAN were caught by surprise, and said that “this was not part of the rehearsal” and not the previously-cleared content in a statement they released after the broadcast.
Earlier on Saturday a rep for Madonna clarified that reports of the singer receiving up to $1.35 million by a Jewish Canadian philanthropist were incorrect, instead claiming the amount was “a contribution made to the Israeli production” and that “Madonna did not receive a fee for her performance.”
Madonna’s was not the only Eurovision protest to catch organizers off-guard. In the final moments of the show, upon revealing voting results and the camera cutting to delegations to capture their reactions, Icelandic band Hatari held up a banner with the Palestinian flag and were met with booing from the crowd.
Eurovision is now headed to the Netherlands in May of 2020.