The Miss South Africa Organisation is being criticized for its decision to participate in the 2021 Miss Universe contest in Israel. The Miss Universe contest will take place on December 13 in the Israeli town of Eilat. Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, is all set to represent her country at the event.
But a civil society group is asking her to pull out of the contest because it is being held in Israel that has been accused of being an apartheid state due to its policies towards the Palestinians and other non-Jews. There were earlier reports that 24-year-old Mswane, a law graduate from KwaZulu-Natal, will not participate in the event.
However, Miss SA CEO Stephanie Weil rubbished those reports in a statement released on Tuesday. The statement said Mswane will represent her country in Israel. It added that the beauty queen is being bullied by “a very small but extremely vocal group” of individuals.
“We are not a political organization and the Miss Universe pageant is not a politically inspired event,” said Weil in the statement.
The Palestine Solidarity Alliance is accusing Mswane of ignoring the plight of Palestinians and only “worried about her own self gains”. The group in an Instagram post called for a boycott of the pageant. But Weil further explained why Mswane should be given all the support to represent her country at the event.
“South Africa was placed very firmly in the 21st century when Zozibini Tunzi, proudly wearing her natural hair without trying to conceal it under a weave or a wig, was crowned Miss Universe. Her refusal to bow down to pressure to look a certain way was ground-breaking and opened the door to diversity and the rise of the individual as opposed to lookalikes,” Weil said.
“Like her, Lalela will be a role model to young women – not just across the country, but across the African continent. Anyone who wants to rob Lalela of her moment in the spotlight is unkind and short-sighted. She is the shining beacon for young women everywhere, showing them that being beautiful while being clever and educated is very possible.”
Reports on Tuesday said Miss Malaysia and Indonesia have pulled out of the pageant.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since 1948, is over who gets what land and how it is controlled. Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. This had led to a series of wars between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations over the territory, resulting in deaths and injuries. The war in 1967 left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories home to large Palestinian populations.
A “two-state solution” that would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel is said to be the primary solution. As the Palestinian struggle for freedom and human rights captures international attention, more and more countries have come under pressure to declare their stance on the Israeli occupation and most African countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa have never shied away from stating their position.
Africa has already faced a dark history involving the slave trade, colonialism, apartheid and genocide and would, therefore, not want a repeat of Israel’s version of apartheid on Palestinians.
South Africa, said to be Israel’s harshest critic outside the Islamic world due to apartheid, has over the years shown so much interest in the fate of the Palestinians.
Following the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the government did a U-turn on Israel after what was once a warm relationship. The relationship between Israel and South Africa has since been strained, with the governing African National Congress largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause in the wake of their conflict with Israel.