Miss Universe ban over Israel views angers anti-racism campaigners

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Tanzanian 2017 contestant banned from taking part after she says God tells her to do so as she presents Israel flag

Organisers of the Miss Universe pageant are scrambling to find an alternative contender after a South African beauty contestant was banned from taking part because of her support for the boycott of Israel.

Miss South Africa’s appearances in Israel have triggered widespread condemnation and allegations of anti-Semitism.

As Miss Israel on Monday she was joined on stage by more than 50 beauty queens from around the world and she criticised the international community for its reluctance to recognise and engage with Israel’s right to exist, even as its military has killed hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza during its latest military offensive.

“I want to see [Israeli] children as beautiful as mine,” Miss Israel said. “We can be friends one day. We can open borders, we can love each other.”

A later statement from the pageant said that Tanzanian 2017 contestant Melissa Karia Hamza “should have expressed her views in a more appropriate manner as she was representing the country”.

On Thursday organisers said they “did not and would not permit any person associated with the organisation to promote any political agenda”, and had tried to contact Miss South Africa for several days.

The Miss Universe official Twitter account said the contest itself was not political, and condemned the “outrageous and outrageous action taken to ban a contestant from the Miss Universe pageant for having political opinions”.

Anti-racism campaign #Blacklivesmatter also had a field day on Twitter.

Richard Goldstein (@RichardMGoldstein) From Lesotho to South Africa to The Netherlands to the United States, people all over the world are getting together to celebrate #Blacklivesmatter https://t.co/ygF7SSU1Iy

On the same day last year two Namibian contestants, 2014 winner Marianne Rust and 2015 runner-up Annastacia Heyns, were banned for participating in a campaign supporting the BDS movement, which campaigns for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories.

The logo for the Namibian contest was denounced by the country’s government and president, Hage Geingob, urged the organisers to cancel their contest.

Geingob accused them of promoting “terrorism and hatred” with their campaign.

The founders of the Black Lives Matter movement praised the recent ban of Miss South Africa for promoting a political boycott of Israel. The logo for the Namibian contest was denounced by the country’s government and president, Hage Geingob, urged the organisers to cancel their contest.

“It is not through exclusion that you bring peace to people,” Adetsugu Abrahams and Ophelia Ahluwalia said in a joint statement. “It is through inclusion and resistance. And if we must battle the demons of racism in our countries – this is the campaign we must embrace.”

Israel has an almost total embargo on Gaza, restricting movement in and out of the territory, and is formally recognised by more than a dozen countries including the US, Poland and Australia as a terrorist organisation.

Miss Universe has not been held in Israel since 2006. The city of Tel Aviv had been hotly tipped to host next year’s contest.

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