Palestinian women lead calls to boycott Miss Universe pageant hosted by apartheid Israel
Greek contestant Rafaele Plastira withdraws in solidarity.
This year has seen an unprecedented number of artists, scholars and athletes speaking out and taking meaningful actions of solidarity with Palestinian rights, horrified at Israel’s latest massacres in besieged Gaza during May that killed more than forty women and sixty children.
Just last month, 70 prominent writers expressed their support for acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney’s endorsement of the boycott of apartheid Israel’s complicit publishing sector. In the same month, the number of filmmakers joining Queer Cinema for Palestine’s pledge to boycott events sponsored by Israel’s complicit institutions reached a milestone 200 signatories.
Inspired by the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, these figures join thousands of artists worldwide, including Hollywood A-listers, musicians, visual artists, and many others in condemning Israel’s war crimes and regime of apartheid and settler-colonialism. They are endorsing disengagement from institutions that are complicit in it.
No wonder, then, that Israel’s far-right apartheid regime is trying to exploit its hosting of the international Miss Universe beauty pageant in a desperate attempt to polish its tarnished image and cynically portray itself as a “tourist destination” rather than a militarised occupier state.
Greek contestant Rafaele Plastira withdrew from Miss Universe in solidarity with Palestinians after Israel’s hosting was announced. Plastira, selected as Greece’s representative, said she had “waited so many years to make [her] dream come true” but “can’t go up that stage and act like nothing is happening when people are fighting for their lives out there.”
She added, “I am disappointed in Miss Universe for this ... It was a childhood dream for me but I really don’t care … Humanity ABOVE beauty pageants!”.
The 21-year-old model, who previously represented Greece at Miss World 2019, has been appointed as Greece's representative to the next edition of the Miss Universe competition. This marks the country's return to the Miss Universe stage after a two-year absence. pic.twitter.com/lk7mI2sCrO
— Missosology (@missosology) June 5, 2021
The South African government also withdrew its support for the country’s representative, citing Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who said, “[Palestinians’] humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”
"The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented and Government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such."#BoycottMissUniverse2021
— PACBI (@PACBI) November 14, 2021
Palestinian women are leading the growing calls to #BoycottMissUniverse2021.
The General Union of Palestinian women wrote, “holding the Miss Universe pageant in Eilat is a form of complicity in deepening and whitewashing Israel’s oppression against us as Palestinian women in refugee camps, in Israeli detention centers, in the besieged Gaza Strip, and in our villages whose lands are continually being expropriated by Israel’s occupation forces, particularly in Jerusalem and its neighborhoods.”
The US-based Palestinian Feminist Collective called “on feminists to stand with us against Miss Universe’s explicit endorsement of Israel as it appropriates women’s and queer rights discourses to mask the colonial project of dispossession and violence that the state inflicts upon Palestinians … As a feminist collective committed to women's freedom and liberation, we believe in celebrating the will of women’s collectives across the world that fight for freedom and justice through steadfast displays of resilience.”
— Palestinian Feminist Collective (@PalFeminist) November 17, 2021
A letter from Palestinian and Arab women highlighted that apartheid Israel’s host city of Eilat was “built on the ruins of Umm al Rashrash, one of the hundreds of Palestinian villages whose Indigenous population was ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Nakba. Not only are Palestinians from these destroyed villages prevented from returning to their homes, this ethnic cleansing has been systematically erased and denied by the Israeli settler-colonial regime.”
The signatories continued, “The Miss Universe pageant claims to be an ‘inclusive organization’ and ‘a sisterhood’ that ‘empowers women.’ Yet, a consistent and principled intersectional feminism would recognise that standing with the oppressed, including Palestinians, is a critical feminist issue. Indeed, the Israeli regime systematically uses tactics of gendered violence to brutally target Palestinian women, from incarceration to the destruction of homes and communities. As bell hooks wrote: ‘As long as women are using class or race or power to dominate other women, feminist sisterhood cannot be fully realized.’”
Watch: Palestinian women call on participants in @MissUniverse to withdraw from the pageant, which is complicit in glamor-washing Israel's apartheid regime and colonial oppression. #BoycottMissUniverse2021 #MissUniverse2021 pic.twitter.com/IoNsbwAZJY
— PACBI (@PACBI) November 23, 2021