Over 30,000 people are expected to attend the opening concert of Madonna’s world tour “MDNA” tonight (Thursday) in Israel. The concert is being billed as a “peace concert” and costs more than NIS 15 million to produce.
One of Madonna’s dancers, a Palestinian named Ali Ramadani already made headlines after tweeting about his visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque: “At the amazing Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. I don’t want to say it’s in Israel, but Palestine, strength and honor.” A few Israeli newspapers are already reporting it as a “controversy.”
Madonna invited a variety of progressive and left-wing groups to come to her concert for free tonight, including residents of Neve Shalom (an Arab-Jewish cooperative village near Jerusalem), Combatants for Peace, Shatil and Peace Now (Hebrew). The invitation was made through the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO forum, a network of over 100 NGOs working towards peace in the region.
Anarchists Against the Wall was also invited but declined, citing that Palestinians under occupation do not have the most basic rights, let alone the ability to attend such a concert. Heere is a statement from Boycott from Within:
Madonna is planned to perform in Israel, choosing to disregard many calls made by Palestinians, Israelis and internationals asking her to heed the Palestinian call for BDS and refrain from performing here.
Each and every artist playing Israel while turning a blind eye to its ongoing occupation and apartheid against the Palestinian people, is also helping it maintain a facade of business as usual while sending a green light to the continuation of the systematic violations of international law and the disrespect of universally recognized human rights.
Therefore, holding a “peace concert”, which utterly disregards Palestinian rights would be nothing but a blatant attempt at whitewashing Israeli crimes – an effort that may only be carried out with the help and active participation of your organization.It is an unfortunate situation that most Israeli NGOs will assist in such a re-branding campaign rather than shun away from it. We therefore urge you to side with freedom, justice and equality. Take these values seriously and refuse to lend a hand to the peace propaganda machine.
A group called Heartbeat based in Jerusalem, which is dedicated to empowering Israeli and Palestinian youth musicians, was also invited to Madonna’s concert. They debated whether to accept the offer. Director Aaron Shneyer told +972 over the phone today that three Heartbeat participants are attending the concert tonight.
“While we hold no expectations, we hope their presence will help raise awareness of the struggles and realities our members face and will encourage Madonna to use her influence to help us build respect and trust between Israelis and Palestinians so that the injustices and violence we face today will end,” he said.
The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement also declined the invitation, explaining that Madonna’s failure to ever condemn Israeli policies renders the word “peace” meaningless. From their statement posted on Facebook:
Madonna has never criticised the Israeli occupation, its separation policies, or its regime of privileges. Therefore, we believe that the reason she sought the presence of Israeli peace activists was to further a public image of an artist who promotes peace in the Middle East. We refuse to be a public relations gimmick for Madonna at the expense of the Palestinians. This is not our way.