Miss Mexico, Andrea Meza, Miss Universe 2021

Miss Universe says pageant no place for politics over Palestine issue

Miss Universe Andrea Meza said on Nov 17 the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized, even though its next edition is being held in Israel amid pressure on contestants to drop out in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The 70th Miss Universe pageant is being staged in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat in December. Dozens of contestants from around the world will arrive there in the coming weeks to compete in national costumes, evening gowns and swimwear. They’ll also have their public speaking prowess tested with a series of interview questions.

But the pageant is in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. At least one country has already called off their participation.

Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, told AP ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. Its just about embracing other women.

Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks. She hands over the crown in Eilat on Dec. 12.

Hosting the show is a coup for Israel, which for years has been confronting a grassroots Palestinian-led international campaign calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Israel hopes the pageant will help draw tourists and project an image of Israel as a safe destination during the pandemic.

Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, has said Israel has been on the shortlist of host countries due to its rich history, beautiful landscapes, myriad of cultures and appeal as a global tourist destination.

But contestants are facing pressure to boycott the event and set aside hopes for the crown to make a political statement.

PACBI, a Palestinian activist group and founding member of the boycott movement, called on contestants to do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality by withdrawing from the pageant.

Citing COVID, Malaysia has announced it won’t send a contestant. And South Africas government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event.

The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented, the government said in a statement, adding that it cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.

Both countries are strong supporters of the Palestinians.

Story by AP

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