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November 17, 2021 2:33 pm

Reigning Miss Universe Says Don’t Politicize the Pageant as Israel Boycott Efforts Continue Ahead of Eilat Competition

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The reigning winner of Miss Universe, Andrea Meza of Mexico poses for a photo in front of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock on November 17, 2021, as part of the preparation for Israel hosting Miss Universe 2021 later this year. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.

The reigning Miss Universe said on Wednesday to leave politics aside when it comes to the international beauty pageant set to be held next month in Israel, amid efforts to have contestants boycott the event in a show of support for Palestinians.

Miss Universe Andrea Meza, 27, toured Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday ahead of the 70th Miss Universe pageant, scheduled to take place in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat on Dec. 12. She told the Associated Press before the start of her tour, “Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion. It’s just about embracing other women.”

Meza, a software engineer who represents Mexico, said she would not hold it against women who chose to withdraw their participation from this year’s contest, but that she personally has no issue with the competition being held in Israel.

“People have to make compromises and I really hope that we can make this through talking and conversation,” Meza added.

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Contestants from around the world will begin arriving in Israel in the coming weeks ahead of the Miss Universe competition. The Miss Universe organization will arrange for the contestants to tour Israel and learn about its history and culture with visits to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and locations around Eilat, among other places.

The Palestinian activist group PACBI, which is also a founding member of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, has called on contestants to “do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality by withdrawing from the pageant.”

South Africa announced on Sunday that it will not endorse its Miss Universe representative, Lalela Mswane, 24, if she competes in the pageant. The government said “the atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented,” and that it “cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.” The grandson of South Africa’s former president, the late civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, has also called on countries to boycott the 70th Miss Universe pageant because it will take place in Israel.

Malaysia, Barbados and Laos have already withdrawn their participation in this year’s Miss Universe competition due to COVID-19-related restrictions. This year is the first time that the UAE will participate in the Miss Universe pageant.

Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, previously said Israel “has been on our shortlist of host countries for a number of years due to its rich history, beautiful landscapes, myriad of cultures and appeal as a global tourist destination.”

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