Miss Barbados, Hillary Ann Williams, has withdrawn from the upcoming Miss Universe Pageant which is set to take place this December in Eilat, an Israeli-occupied Palestinian city, citing COVID-19 conditions and restrictions.
According to Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Miss Barbados withdrew from the Miss Universe Pageant while citing COVID-19 conditions and restrictions.
“We wish that all the contestants had the courage and wisdom that Miss Universe Greece, Rafaela Plastira, had to disassociate herself from the evils of Apartheid Israel and be a voice for peace and justice for the Palestinian People,” he said in a statement on Wednesday to welcome the withdrawal of Miss Barbados.
“I can’t go up that stage and act like nothing is happening when people are fighting for their lives out there,” said Rafaela Plastira, Miss Greece, as she announced in October she’d not be attending Miss Universe pageant in ‘Israel’ next December, saying “the reason for that is the country.”
“We nevertheless reiterate our call on all contestants around the world to follow suit and withdraw irrespective of the reasons. We repeat that there is nothing beautiful about Apartheid. We should know we lived through it,” added the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
“We must not normalize the oppression, discrimination and racism against the Palestinian people through staging beauty pageants as if people’s homes were not being torn down daily, lands grabbed for expansion of illegal settlements in violation of International law, and the violence meted out to young and old alike.”
“There is nothing beautiful about Apartheid in Israel and there is nothing beautiful about occupation of Palestinian lands. The Miss Universe Pageant event is just a poor attempt to conceil the occupation, genocide and crimes against humanity that are perpetrated daily against innocent Palestinians.”
“Those who persist in participating in the Apartheid Israel Miss Universe Pageant in December 2021 in Israel will be harshly judged by history just as all who supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa today hang their heads in shame and ignominy.”
Since July, several pro-Palestine advocates and organizations have been calling to boycott the 70th Miss Universe pageant as it will be held this December in Eilat.
The advocates have been calling Miss Universe pageants to withdraw, reject and condemn the Israel-hosted beauty pageant.
Miss Malaysia and Miss Indonesia have taken the decision to boycott the event by withdrawing from it.
Meanwhile, Miss UAE and Miss Morocco, the only Arab contestants who are actively participating, were granted access to the events following the normalization of relations between their governments and the occupation’s in 2020.
Lately, Miss SA has also been facing criticism by anti-apartheid activists and organizations over her announcement that she will take part in the Miss Universe Pageant.
The criticism largely comes from South Africa’s history with apartheid and colonialism, which is very similar to Palestine’s history and current situation. It also comes following Human Rights Watch’s coining of ‘Israel’ as an apartheid state.
Eilat, where the event will take place, was built in 1952 on the Palestinian southernmost city of Umm al-Rashrash.
In March 1949, Ben Gurion, Israeli Prime Minister at the time, instructed the Israeli occupation forces to make it a fact that ‘Israel’ is the rightful owner of the Negev (and of course, Umm Rash-Rash, which is situated in the Negev’s most northern spot).
The IOF started “Operation Uvda” (in Hebrew, “Uvda” means “Fact”), led by then-Israeli Foreign Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, started their way down to conquer Umm Rash-Rash, destroyed the citizens’ houses and raised the Israeli flag before the city’s police station.
So, the advocates have slammed the Miss Universe Organization for the announcement, saying such events are used to divert attention from Israel’s many human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Israel’s decades-old regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid desperately needs such propaganda festivals and events to art-wash its egregious crimes against the Palestinian people.
The advocates have said that Israel exploits such festivals to project itself as a melting pot of cultures, religions and social backgrounds, rather than as an apartheid and colonial regime that has more than 65 racist laws discriminating against its indigenous Palestinian citizens.
This isn’t the first time cultural events held in “Israel” experience waves of boycotts – in 2019, the Eurovision contest in “Tel Aviv” was also heavily criticized and boycotted by multiple artists.