May 15, 2019

ISRAEL: Pop Superstar Madonna, Ahead Of Eurovision Performance, Says BDS Bullies Won't Stop Her Music. Yay! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŒป

The Times of Israel
written by Staff
Tuesday May 14, 2019

Defying boycott calls, queen of pop vows to not be silenced and to speak out against human rights violations

Pop superstar Madonna struck a defiant chord Tuesday, declaring that boycott calls will not stop her from make a guest appearance during the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

“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,” Madonna said in a statement to Reuters.

Israel earned the right to host the Eurovision after local singer Netta Barzilai won the contest last year. Pro-Palestinian supporters of boycotting Israel have called for competitors and fans to shun the competition and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip have threatened to disrupt the event with rocket attacks on the country.

“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,” Madonna said. “I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace.”

Last September, some 140 artists, including former Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, called for a boycott of the song contest. In April, Waters made a personal appeal to Madonna to not perform at Eurovision, saying it “normalizes the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters.”

According to Reuters, Madonna supports several Palestinian projects through her Ray of Light foundation, which encourages social justice and women’s rights around the world.

Madonna, 60, is due to land in Israel on Wednesday morning, accompanied by an entourage of 135 people, ahead of her planned performance during the Eurovision finals on Saturday night.

On Monday, Eurovision executive producer Jon Ola Sand said her performance was not officially confirmed, since the European Broadcasting Union does not have a signed contract with her team.

Disagreements apparently remained regarding the EBU’s broadcasting rights for the performance, as the union is demanding all member networks be granted full rights to the materials.

“If we don’t have a signed contract, she can’t perform on that stage,” Sand said at a Monday night press conference at the Tel Aviv Expo. “We’re negotiating that now.”

Earlier Monday, the public relations team for Sylvan Adams, the Canadian-Israeli philanthropist who is reportedly funding a large portion of Madonna’s $1.3 million fee and bringing her to Israel on his private jet, stated that preparations for Madonna’s performance were already taking place.

She is expected to perform two songs in Tel Aviv, one of which will be drawn from her upcoming “Madame X” album, which is scheduled for release in June, Reuters reported.

Daniel Benaim, the CEO of the Comtec Group, an Israeli events producer that is handling the singer’s production in Israel, said in a press release that her performance was a complicated one, with demands and standards similar to those of other international performers.

A portion of Madonna’s stage set arrived in Israel on Monday, on a cargo plane loaded with 30 tons of equipment, including 70 stairs and and an elevator that will be part of the Eurovision stage. Other preparations include a backstage tent complex for Madonna’s team and four full rehearsals.

Madonna’s entourage includes rapper KoVu, a choir of 40 people, 25 dancers and dozens of choreographers, staging, lighting, and video art personnel for her performance.

According to local promoter Live Nation, the $1.3 million price tag for a 15-minute Madonna performance will be paid by Adams.

Madonna has performed in Israel three times: in 1993, 2009, and during the summer of 2012.

A longtime Kabbalah enthusiast, she has made pilgrimages to Israel on several occasions as well.
The Times of Israel
written by Jonah Mandel
Wednesday May 15, 2019

Israel’s economic hub hopes the influx of tourists to its beaches, nightlife and ancient quarters will spark new interest, and lucrative new hosting opportunities.

AFP — Eurovision hasn’t declared its winner yet but tourists in Israel for the competition were declaring host Tel Aviv “amazing,” with officials hoping to capitalize on the momentum for future events.

On Monday, just a day before the first round of semifinals began in a nearby convention center, downtown Tel Aviv was bustling with a Eurovision vibe.

On the elegant Rothschild Boulevard, volunteers with purple T-shirts and matching hats were providing Eurovision tourists with booklets and information about the city and competition venues.

A short distance away, a group was gathering for a free walking tour of the city’s LGBT landmarks, operated by Sandeman, which had broadened its normal Tel Aviv repertoire for Eurovision week.

On the sandy beach below the Hilton hotel, Laszlo Lukacs was enjoying the afternoon sun and breeze on a recliner.

To Lukacs, a Zurich-based Hungarian in software sales, the Israeli venue was an interesting twist in the Eurovision plot.

“It’s super exciting for us Europeans to come here,” said Lukacs, who has followed Eurovision to each host country for the past six years.

“Is this Europe, talking about Eurovision, is it the Middle East, all these different religions mixing here,” he said.

While Tel Aviv was expensive, Lukacs said its residents were “super helpful so far and very nice, very friendly people.”

“So far it’s a very positive and interesting experience,” he added.

Stretching eastward from the Mediterranean, Israel’s economic and cultural center likes to boast of its beaches, vibrant nightlife, ancient quarters and rich culinary and cultural scene.

Tel Aviv’s pluralistic character — it hosts the largest Gay Pride event in the region — stands in contrast not only to neighboring Arab states but even other Israeli cities such as Jerusalem.

While Israel’s 2018 Eurovision victory with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy” meant the Jewish state would host the next year, Tel Aviv was not handed the boon on a silver platter.

Israeli politicians initially insisted that Jerusalem host the event, backing down only after objections by ultra-Orthodox politicians over the finals being held close to the Jewish Sabbath.

Pressures by pro-Palestinian activists and artists to boycott the Israeli event loomed in the background, and tensions with Gaza, culminating in a flareup earlier this month affecting southern Israel, threatened to disrupt the event.

‘Like a wedding’

Eytan Schwartz, CEO of Tel Aviv Global who was tasked with preparing the city for Eurovision tourists, said hundreds of people had been working around the clock for nine months for the event.

“We prepared for this like a wedding,” he said against the backdrop of a Eurovision banner outside the municipality building, which at nights illuminates its front with the flags of countries participating in the Eurovision.

This year 41 nations are competing, with Dutch singer Duncan Laurence favorite to win according to a survey of bookmakers by independent fan website Eurovision World.

It remained unclear whether Madonna will perform at the Saturday final, after Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said it was in negotiations with the US icon.

Preparing for the competition included training hotel staff, taxi and bus drivers, setting up a small army of volunteers and preparing accessible information for visitors, Schwartz said.

While the 10,000 tourists in town for Eurovision do not represent a large quantity for a major European city, in small Tel Aviv — with under half a million residents — you “feel them all around the city.”

A beachside Eurovision Village has been set up for live performances, with booths selling food and merchandise, as well as the Eurovision exhibitions and installations.

For Tel Aviv, the Eurovision was “a platform to examine all our challenges as a small city and take us up a level as far as our abilities to absorb tourists,” Schwartz said.

The unusual international exposure could also help position Tel Aviv as a venue for conferences and even sports events, he added.

The heavy media presence and global attention on the city “is a gift that Netta gave us,” Schwartz said.

At the Eurovision Village, visitor Chris Walker said the competition — wed with the city known for its party scene — made for “an unmissable event.”

“Everyone’s so friendly, everybody’s willing to help you any chance they can,” the Scotland native said over blaring speakers.

Traveling with Walker, Daniel said he’d been following Eurovision from Chile for the past seven years.

“This year I decided — why not go to Tel Aviv, which is a city I’ve always wanted to visit, so here I am, waiting for the show to start,” he said, praising the warm weather and people.

“Everyone speaks English and everyone is nice and so far it’s been really amazing,” he said.
UPDATE 5/16/19 at 2:49pm: I added tweet below.
Gatestone Institute
written by Khaled Abu Toameh
June 12, 2018

On June 8, an estimated 250,000 people attended the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Tourists from all around the world came to Israel to watch and participate in the event. The theme of this year's event is "The Community Makes History" -- a reference to the LGBT community in Israel.

In Palestinian and Arab society, homosexuality is denounced and stigmatized. Homosexuality is illegal under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, and dozens of gay Palestinians have fled to Israel out of fear of persecution and harassment. In the West Bank, the laws of the Palestinian Authority also do not protect the rights of gay Palestinians.

In the past decades, several gay Palestinians have been killed in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 2016, Hamas executed one of its top military commanders, Mahmoud Ishtiwi, 34, after he was found guilty of "moral turpitude" -- a thinly veiled reference to homosexuality. Ishtiwi, who was killed by three bullets to the chest, would have lived a safe life had he been an Israeli citizen. If he were living in Israel, he could even have participated in the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv without having to conceal his identity. But he lived in the Gaza Strip among people who consider homosexuality a sin punishable by death -- and who act on it.

The case of Ishtiwi lays bare a major difference between Israeli and Palestinian society and culture.

Israel has been marching forward towards tolerance and acceptance of the gay community's rights, while Palestinians remain as intolerant as ever with regards to those who dare to act and speak differently.

UPDATE 5/18/19 at 6:50pm: I added tweet below.

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