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Mounting Pressure against Miss Universe Pageant in Israel Causes Contestants to Drop out in Protest -- A Brief Note

posted on: Nov 24, 2021

Mounting Pressure against Miss Universe Pageant in Israel Causes Contestants to Drop out in Protest -- A Brief Note
Andrea Meza, the reigning Miss Universe from Mexico, poses overlooking the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock Mosque as she tours the Old City of Jerusalem–says “pageant “should not be politicized .” Photo Times of Israel

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

In support of BDS, some countries are questioning support of the Miss Universe contest to be held this December 12 in the Israeli resort town of Eilat. Several countries or their representatives have dropped out. However, the reigning Miss Universe is hailing the event and doing publicity by visiting sites around Israel. There are other contestants whose presence at the beauty contest is debatable, with both Malaysia and Indonesia ready to join the boycott.

BDS — why some countries have withdrawn from the pageant

The global beauty contest, Miss Universe, to be held this December 12 in the Israeli resort town of Eilat, is being thwarted by the withdrawal of some contestants by a few prominent countries. In supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, several countries or their representatives have dropped out. The flip side of the BDS issue is these countries’ expression of solidarity with the Palestinians.

In support of the pageant’s presentation in Israel, reigning Miss Universe Andrea Meza of Mexico is reported by the Lifestyle news source as hailing the event, proclaiming that contestants should “forget about politics.” At the same time, Ms. Meza has been shown in photos visiting many of Israel’s historic sites, demonstrating to viewers the beauty of the country and of herself. She suggests that the pageant is “just about embracing other women.”

Other excuses for reluctance to attend

Ms. Meza’s comments were made after the withdrawal of Miss Greece, Rafaela Plastira in October. Ms. Plastira posted on Instagram, “I will not be attending Miss Universe this year. The reason for that is the country. I am absolutely not disrespecting the country. I love all countries from all over the world but my heart goes to all the people fighting for their lives in Israel & [Palestine]. I can’t go up that stage and act like nothing is happening when people are fighting for [their] lives out there.” Plastira has since been replaced.

Other contestants whose presence at the beauty contest was debatable include Miss Malaysia, whose government gave the reason of Covid-19 restriction as to the reason for not attending. Meanwhile, Malaysia is known to be a big supporter of the Palestinian people. Indonesia’s candidate has withdrawn from the pageant, citing the Boycott. Only the UAE and Morocco of the Arab countries expressed interest in sending their contestants, following the ‘normalization’ of relations with Israel in 2020. The UAE cited time constraints in getting their contestant to Israel.

Mounting Pressure against Miss Universe Pageant in Israel Causes Contestants to Drop out in Protest -- A Brief Note
Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, decided to attend the pageant in Israel, despite her government’s opposition Photo J-Wire

In South Africa, the ruling party, the African National Congress, had considered boycotting the pageant. That body offered the excuse that Miss South Africa’s contestant, Lalela Mswane, should not attend, saying “the damage to her reputation will far exceed any glamour that may arise.”

Miss Mswane was more inclined to attend the pageant, as she noted in a post, “With this crown, I have the privilege of carrying the dreams and aspirations of so many South Africans, a privilege I don’t ever take for granted. With a willing heart, open mind and an eagerness to learn and grow, I stand excited to reign as your Miss South Africa 2021.” Discussions about her attendance drew on references to South African apartheid, which some critics equate with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Sources:
“Miss Universe Andrea Meza says ‘forget about politics’ as pageant goes to Israel,” Lifestyle 11/23/2021
“No Beauty in Occupation: Malaysia and Indonesia boycott Israeli-held Miss Universe,” Almayadeen.net, 11/14/2021


John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID, Department of State, and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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