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#BoycottMissUniverse2021, Pro-Palestine advocates call, as it will be held in ‘Israel’

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, an Israeli-occupied Palestinian city.

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.

Many voices have called for the boycott of the event: Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, posted a statement calling on Miss Universe pageants to “follow suit” with Malaysia and Indonesia.

“There is nothing beautiful about occupation, brutality and institutionalized discrimination against the Palestinian people,” he asserted.

In addition, Mandela called on African countries to withdraw from the contest in “Israel,” also in protest of the African Union’s recent decision to grant “Israel” observer status, which was recently postponed.

His statement came after 24-year-old Lalela Mswane was crowned Miss South Africa 2021 in October, at the Grand Arena in Cape Town.

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.

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