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Gaza resident sends passionate plea to Miss SA to withdraw from Miss Universe pageant to be held in Israel

Miss SA Lalela Mswane is set to compete in the Miss Universe pageant which is set to be held in Israel. Supplied image

Miss SA Lalela Mswane is set to compete in the Miss Universe pageant which is set to be held in Israel. Supplied image

Published Nov 13, 2021

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Johannesburg - As calls grow for Miss SA to boycott the Miss Universe pageant in Israel, a Gaza resident has sent a passionate plea to the beauty queen urging her to pull out of the competition.

Dr. Haidar Eid, an associate professor of literature at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University, wrote an open letter to beauty queen Lalela Mswane this week urging her to withdraw from the pageant.

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The 55-year-old professor, who also holds South African citizenship, said it was important for Mswane to do the right thing by withdrawing, as Palestinians had always supported the struggle in South Africa.

“I assume you don't know enough about the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of Israel's occupation colonisation and apartheid in Palestine.

“Even before the end of the apartheid system in 1994, we, Palestinians, wholeheartedly supported the struggle in South Africa and played a role in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that formed one of the major pillars of the struggle to bring apartheid down.

“Nelson Mandela made it absolutely clear ... without the support of the Palestine liberation organisation, among others, the end of the racist regime would have been delayed.”

Lalela Mswane was crowned Miss SA last month. Supplied image

Eid said it was important that Mswane become aware of the suffering that the people of Palestine faced on a daily basis, before making a decision.

“A UN Fact Finding Mission, headed by none other than your own Richard Goldstone, has labelled these massacres ’war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.’

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“And anti-apartheid activists, including the likes of Desmond tutu and Ronnie Kasrils, have told us that what we are going through in Palestine is ’far far worse than apartheid’.”

The Miss SA winner has come under fire this week, with pro-Palestine supporters urging the 24-year-old not to attend Miss Universe.

Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) said SA’s participation was “inexcusable”, while the grandson of former late president Nelson Mandela, Mandla Mandela, also called for a boycott, saying Mswane should not attend the ceremony.

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According to reports Miss Malaysia and Miss Indonesia have withdrawn from the event.

Eid said the women in Palestine relied on solidarity from South African women.

“Ms Mswane...how would you have felt if a Palestinian woman decided to join a similar contest in South Africa in the ’70s and '80s of last century?

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“How would you have responded if a similar contest was held in Sophiatown, for example? And how would the South African people have reacted to the participation of Palestinians in concerts and sports games in apartheid South Africa?.

“Our women are at the receiving end of a multi-tiered system of oppression and expect solidarity from their Black sisters.”

Eid added that his female students had also urged Mswane to withdraw.

“I teach hundreds of female students who come from refugee camps. My students have one message: refrain from violating our BDS guidelines and stand on the right side of history. I am certain you will not disappoint them.

“Nelson Mandela's much quoted sentiment that “(South African) freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” is decorating the walls of refugee camps in the Gaza Strip where millions of refugees are waiting for the day of their return to the towns and villages which were ethnically cleansed in 1948 by racist gangs ruling the country you are visiting.”

While many have called for Mswane to boycott the pageant, organisation South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) have backed the beauty queen, and are calling on Palestine lobby organisations to cease “harassing“ her.

“Ms Mswane was bullied growing up and, now as Miss SA, she has unwittingly been confronted with a small but aggressive band of bullies,” said spokesperson Bafana Modise.

“Part of the aggressors’ agenda is to prevent Miss SA from taking her rightful and deserved place at the Miss Universe contest happening in Israel in December.”

“The haters have repeated the big lie that Israel is an “Apartheid State”. This is a blatantly false accusation.“

“Israel is a thriving multicultural democracy, and any claims that it is similar to the former South African government simply harm the harrowing meaning and memory of apartheid South Africa.”

“Israel’s citizens are all treated equally and fairly with the right to vote, practice their religion and beliefs, and participate fully in society.”

Lalela Mswane, Miss South Africa 2021, being crowned by her predecessor, Shudufhadzo Musida. PICTURE: Miss South Africa Organisation

Former Miss Iraq, Sarai Idan, in a video to Miss SA, has also backed Mswane’s decision to compete.

“Please allow Miss South Africa to go and experience Israel up close, on the ground, and let her be the judge for herself,” Idan said in a video.

“I hope that you will enjoy your trip and learn not only about Israel but about beautiful other countries. This is what the Miss Universe pageant is about.”

Meanwhile, the Miss South Africa organisation confirmed this week that Mswane would be representing South Africa at the beauty pageant in Israel.

The organisation said they were thrilled to make Mswane’s childhood dream come true – which is to wear the crown while representing her country globally.

“(Mswane) has spoken out openly about being bullied as a child. She will not be bullied as an adult against fulfilling her ambition,” said chief executive of Miss South Africa, Stephanie Weil.

Weil said a “very, very small, but extremely vocal, group” had attempted, and failed, to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.

“As the reigning Miss South Africa, Mswane will join participants from close on 70 countries in this contest, and will represent South Africa to the best of her ability,” the statement read.

“Her refusal to bow down to pressure to look a certain way was groundbreaking, and opened the door to diversity and the rise of the individual as opposed to look-alikes,” said Weil.

The Saturday Star

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