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Miss Universe contestants accused of 'Israelising' Palestinian culture 

Miss Universe contestants accused of 'Israelising' Palestinian culture

Contestants taking part in the Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Israel are being criticised for appropriating Palestinian culture after posing in traditional Palestinian dresses and mispresenting it by captioning it under the hashtag "visitIsrael".

Enraging social media users all over the world, Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez posted pictures on Instagram of herself and her fellow contestants preparing Palestinian food in traditional Palestinian dresses.

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.

Dr Yara Hawari, senior analyst at the Palestinian Policy Network – Al-Shabaka, wrote: "The Miss Universe Pageant is being hosted by the Israeli regime this year. Several contestants have withdrawn but many others are still taking part including those from the Global South."

"In this post, Miss Philippines shows off the gross appropriation of Palestinian culture," she added.

"Cultural theft and appropriation of the Palestinian thobe and embroidery during the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. How much ugliness, monstrosity, and objectification can one event have?" Twitter user Nemaa asked.

"Miss Universe organisers in Israel and contestants are appropriating Palestinian culture… with zero recognition of the hundreds of generations of Palestinians who passed this cultural identity down," Layth Hanbali commented in response to Gomez's post.

"Needless to say, there is not even a hint to the Palestinians who have had this cultural identity suppressed, denied and stolen by Zionism," Hanbali added.

In addition to the photos, a video of Gomez singing and dancing to traditional Palestinian folklore songs was being used to promote tourism to the occupation state.

READ: Miss France tests positive for covid after arriving in Israel

"Stop stealing our culture," said Mo Mustafa on Twitter. "This video from Miss Philippines 2021 was an ad for "Visit Isr*el". They're wearing traditionally Palestinian clothing, singing traditionally Palestinian folklore songs, and in other pictures they roll grape leaves, a traditional Palestinian dish," he noted.

The beauty pageant has also been accused of "whitewashing colonialism", while others called Israel out for trying to "steal everything Palestinian related".

Issam Waddan, a journalist and writer based in Gaza, wrote: "A day of the Palestinian Bedouin life, wearing a Palestinian Thobe, preparing Palestinian/Arabian food, and promoting to visit Israel DON'T get a long together Miss Universe 2021. It's ignorance, oppressive, and whitewashing colonialism."

Meanwhile, in response to the occupation's attempts to whitewash its crimes with a beauty contest, Miss Malaysia and Miss Indonesia have taken the decision to boycott the event by withdrawing from it.

In a statement last month, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, called 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 institutionalized discrimination against the Palestinian people," he said. However, Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane has chosen to ignore the calls for a boycott and will represent the country at Miss Universe in Israel on 12 December.

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