Occupied Jerusalem (The Inside Palestine)- The reigning Miss Universe said last week that the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized, even though its next edition is being held in ‘Israel’ amid pressure on contestants to drop out in solidarity with the Palestinians.
“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, told The Associated Press in November 17 ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. “It’s just about embracing other women.”
Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks.
She is set to hand over the crown in ‘Israel’ on December 12.
Asked if she could offer a solution to the “conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, she said she didn’t believe in violence and that communication was key.”
“People have to make compromises and I really hope that we can make this through talking and conversation,” she said.
Miss Barbados, Hillary Ann Williams, withdrew on November 24 from the upcoming Miss Universe Pageant, citing COVID-19 conditions and restrictions.
“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.”
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.
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.
Lately, Miss SA has also been facing criticism by anti-apartheid activists and organizations over her announcement that she will take part in the 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.
South Africa’s government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event.
“The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented,” the government said in a statement, adding that it “cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.”
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.