Miss UAE, Morocco to compete in Miss Universe in Israel despite boycott calls

Miss UAE, Morocco to compete in Miss Universe in Israel despite boycott calls
The winners of Miss UAE and Miss Morocco are set to attend the 70th Miss Universe pageant in the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
3 min read
27 October, 2021
This will be the first time that Israel has hosted the Miss Universe Pageant [Getty]

Miss Universe contestants from the UAE and Morocco are set to take part in this year's Miss Universe pageant hosted by Israel despite calls for a boycott. 

The 70th Miss Universe pageant is scheduled to take place in December in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, and will mark the first time that Israel has hosted the competition. 

It is not known who will represent the UAE at the competition, but the chosen contestant will be the first Emirati ever to compete. 

Hopefuls will take part in a number of different events in Dubai, including a personal statement presentation, couture activewear, evening gown, and an interview.

According to the show's organisers, there will be no swimwear round.

The president of the Miss Universe Organization, Paula Shugart, told, The Jerusalem Post that the theme of the show will be "Israel", and there are plans for the contestants to tour the country and visit locations including the Dead Sea and Jerusalem.

Emiratis were previously not permitted to visit Israel, but the two countries have welcomed each other's citizens since normalising relations in September 2020. 

According to Shugart, the decision to hold the pageant in Israel was based on the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its vaccine rollout.

"We decided if we were going to hold the competition outside of the US, it would be in a country that has handled the virus well," Shugart told The Jerusalem Post

Israel was one of the first countries to roll out the mass vaccination of citizens, although was also heavily criticised for its failure to secure vaccinations for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and siege.

The decision to hold the contest in Israel has sparked an outcry, with some calling for a boycott of the contest over the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza.

One such voice calling for a boycott was that of Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela. 

"Israel is an Apartheid State and we will continue to mobilise all freedom loving people of the world to boycott, divest and pass sanctions against the brutal apartheid regime," Mandela said in a statement to Mvezo Komkhulu

"We must persist in isolating Apartheid Israel in the same way that we isolated Apartheid South Africa," he added. 

Mandela also praised the winners of Miss Malaysia and Miss Indonesia who both announced their intention to boycott the event. 

Less supportive of Mandela’s call for a boycott was former Miss Iraq 2017, Sarah Abdali Idan, who posted a video to her Twitter account, condemning the grandson of the former president and anti-Apartheid activist. 

"All I can say is: 'How dare you?' How dare you, as a man, try to tell an organisation for women and women empowerment what to do," she said. 

"This is an opportunity that millions of women dream of having. To go on [the] world stage and represent their people, their nation, their culture. Not government, not politics, and definitely not your political agenda," she continued.

Idan previously courted controversy in her home country when, in 2017 a picture of Idan and that year's Miss Israel contestant was posted online. 

Some online commenters accused the Miss Iraq contestant of trivialising the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. 

Idan defended the picture and said it did not signify her support to the Israeli government, nor was it an acceptance of their policies.