Two of Madonna's dancers side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs during her performance in an apparent call for unity. Picture: ORIT PNINI/KAN/AFP
Two of Madonna's dancers side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs during her performance in an apparent call for unity. Picture: ORIT PNINI/KAN/AFP

Jerusalem — Israeli culture minister Miri Regev has criticised the display of Palestinian flags during the Eurovision song contest finals in Tel Aviv, including by one of Madonna's dancers.

“It was an error,” Regev, a right-wing minister known for provocative stances, told journalists before a cabinet meeting. “Politics and a cultural event should not be mixed, with all due respect to Madonna.”

Regev criticised Israeli public broadcaster KAN for not having prevented the flags from being shown, though it was unclear what could have been done.

During Madonna’s performance at the Eurovision extravaganza, which began on Saturday night and stretched into Sunday morning, two of her dancers could be seen side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs.

The gesture was an apparent call for unity, but Eurovision organisers seek to keep all politics out of the event and the display of Palestinian flags inside Israel is deeply controversial.

Madonna had not commented on the flags.

Separately, Icelandic group Hatari displayed scarfs with Palestinian flags when results were being announced.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, condemned both displays. Referring to Madonna’s dancers, it said “this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals”.

“The Eurovision song contest is a nonpolitical event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”

Madonna resisted calls from pro-Palestinian activists to boycott the event over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

In a statement before the finals, she said: “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.”

Regev criticised KAN for not having filmed any of its “postcards” of participating singers in the occupied West Bank.

Each singer was filmed in scenic areas of Israel and some of the footage was aired during the show.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and it remains under occupation today. Israeli settlements there are viewed as illegal under international law and are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Israel won the right to host Eurovision thanks to the 2018 victory in the contest of Israeli singer Netta Barzilai.

The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence won the 2019 Eurovision with his power ballad Arcade.

AFP