Gaza resident sends passionate plea to Miss SA to withdraw from beauty pageant to be held in Israel
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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.
The 55-year-old professor, who also holds a South African citizenship, said it was important that Mswane did 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.”
Eid said it was important that Mswane was aware of the suffering that the people of Palestine face 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.’
“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.
According to reports Miss Malaysia and Miss Indonesia have withdrawn from the event.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?
“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.”
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.