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UAE, Morocco to take part in Miss Universe in Israel amid calls for boycott

69th Miss Universe in Hollywood, Florida on May 16, 2021 [Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images]
69th Miss Universe in Hollywood, Florida on May 16, 2021 [Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images]

Candidates from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Morocco will take part in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel in December, ignoring calls for a boycott.

The 70th Miss Universe competition will be held in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat on 12 December, confirmed the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. The UAE will take part in the pageantry for the first time, while Morocco is returning to the competition for the first time in 40 years.

Citing the occupation of Palestine and the brutal treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the decision to hold the contest in Israel has sparked an outcry, with some calling for a boycott of the event.

In a statement last week, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, said that he calls on all former Miss South Africa winners to boycott the event in protest over the "occupation and cruel treatment of Palestinians at the hands of apartheid Israel regime".

There is nothing beautiful about occupation, brutality and institutionalised discrimination against the Palestinian people

he said.

Inkoski also took to Instagram to call for a boycott of the event, comparing the occupation of Palestine to apartheid South Africa.

"Apartheid Israel's occupation is no less despicable than apartheid South Africa. The world responded to our call to stand in global solidarity against the apartheid regime. Now we reiterate our call to boycott, divest and pass sanctions campaigns against apartheid Israel," the caption read.

"We must not support or legitimise the victimisation of our Palestinian brothers and sisters," he added.

Last year's normalisation deals signed by the UAE and Bahrain, followed by Sudan and Morocco, were denounced by Palestinians who claimed that the states had abandoned a unified position under which Arab countries would make peace with the occupation state only after a two-state solution has been implemented, with Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Negotiations stalled in 2014.

Social media activists launched the hashtag #BoycottMissUniverse to encourage action against the pageant, highlighting Israeli war crimes and human rights violations against the Palestinians.

One user wrote: "Miss Universe, which claims to provide a platform to "empower" women, is now legitimising the apartheid state that continues to violently displace and slaughter Palestinian women. Interesting too, how this comes in a time of heightened international awareness of Israel's crimes."

Another shared a video of the destruction Israel left in Gaza expressing his anger about hosting Miss Universe 2021 in Eilat stating: "How can a platform that tries to empower, host its main event in an oppressive state."

Twitter user @AmbivertMusings, described the contest as shameless and misogynistic as she wrote: "As if 70 years of pitting women against each other and misogyny wasn't bad enough, Miss Universe now supports apartheid. #Shameless #BoycottMissUniverse #ApartheidIsrael"

Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe organisation, said Israel has been on the pageant's shortlist of host countries "for a number of years due to its rich history."

"As we sought a location for our 70th anniversary celebration, it became clear through our conversations with acting mayor Lankri (of Eilat) and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism that Israel, which has done a good job containing the global pandemic, has the best resources to host Miss Universe in December," she told Insider.

"We look forward to deepening our commitment to creating meaningful cultural conversation, connection, and understanding through this partnership," she added.

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