Furor over Miss South Africa appearing in competition in Israel

The controversy is swirling around the Miss South Africa beauty pageant as the government has withdrawn its support for the event due to its plans to participate in the Miss Universe 2021 pageant to be held in Israel in December

JOHANNESBURG – The controversy is swirling around the Miss South Africa beauty pageant as the government has withdrawn its support for the event due to its plans to take part in the Miss Universe 2021 pageant to be held in Israel in December.

The current Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, appears to have been trapped in an uncomfortable spot due to furore.

The government announced this week that it has withdrawn its support after failing to persuade the organizers of the Miss South Africa pageant to withdraw from the event to protest Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

Earlier this year, New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Israeli rights group B’Tselem separately said that these policies were similar to apartheid, drawing comparisons with the brutal system of racial discrimination in South Africa that ended in 1994. Israel rejected these allegations, accusing both groups of bias.

The government said it was refusing to associate itself with the 70th annual Miss Universe pageant held in Eilat, Israel, as “Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians are well documented,” said Arts, Sports and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa in a statement earlier this week.

The government’s action prompted an angry response from the South African Jewish Deputy Council.

“South Africa has diplomatic ties and extensive commercial trade relations with Israel. It engages in events like this, such as hosting the Israeli Davis Cup team in 2018, “said Wendy Kahn, national director of the board, in a statement.” The way we influence situations is to engage, not pull. us back. “

The Jewish board accused Mthethwa of politicizing the beauty pageant while failing to address the challenges facing South African artists during the COVID-19 lockdown.

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has supported calls for Mswane to boycott Miss Universe, warning that “the damage to her reputation will far exceed any glamor that may arise.”

South Africa’s left-wing opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and other pro-Palestinian organizations, including the COSATU workers’ union, have also put public pressure on Miss South Africa organizers to withdraw from the Miss Universe event in Israel.

So far, Mswane, a 24-year-old lawyer who won the Miss South Africa pageant last month, has remained silent on whether she will enter the pageant in Israel.

South Africa has had a good run in the Miss Universe pageant in recent years, with Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi winning the Miss Universe crown in 2019 and Demi-Leigh Peters (now Tebow) winning it in 2017.

In 2018, South African DJ Black Coffee faced a backlash for performing in Tel Aviv, ignoring calls from various sectors to withdraw from the event in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Next month’s competition in Israel is in the spotlight due to calls to boycott the event as a demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinians. Over the past 54 years, Israel has systematically deepened its grip on occupied territories seeking a Palestinian state by building settlements. The last meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a partition agreement were held more than ten years ago, and Israel’s current prime minister is opposed to the idea of ​​a Palestinian state.

The BDS movement promotes a boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israeli institutions and companies in what it says is a non-violent campaign for Palestinian rights, modeled on a similar boycott movement decades ago against South African apartheid.

Israel says the campaign is an attempt to delegitimize and even destroy the country, claiming its motives are anti-Semitic. BDS leaders reject allegations of anti-Semitism, saying their campaign is against Israeli politics.

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