Thursday, January 27th | 25 Shevat 5782

December 14, 2021 11:54 am

BDSers Denied: Miss Iraq 2017 Refuses to Boycott Israel

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


Elan Carr, Danny Danon and Sarah Idan. Photo: Israeli UN Mission.

Sarah Idan rose to international prominence when she became the first woman in 45 years to represent Iraq at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017.

While at the glitzy show in Las Vegas, she inadvertently sparked a social media storm when she posted a smiling selfie next to the Israeli contestant, Adar Gandelsman.

Enraged critics flocked to Instagram to slam what they felt was Idan harming the Palestinian cause, including users who accused her of being a “Zionist shill,” and of “happily posing with the beauty queen of occupation and brutality.”

Idan, however, refused to delete the image, and explained the purpose of her post was “only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries,” adding that it did “not signal support for the government of Israel and does not mean I agree or accept its policies in the Arab homeland.”

But the backlash did not subside, and a short time later, Idan revealed that she had been stripped of her Iraqi citizenship in an interview uploaded to YouTube:

I was in Miss Universe and I took a selfie with Miss Israel, which caused the Iraqi government to decide to take my Iraqi citizenship from me. Basically my family ended up leaving Iraq. I had to leave Iraq just for taking a selfie with Miss Israel.

Undeterred, Idan has carried on speaking openly and honestly about a number of topics relating to Israel and conflict in the Middle East, including a speech in 2019 to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

She used her Geneva address to slam the Iraqi government, as well as to expand on her view that the Israeli-Arab conflict is “deeply rooted in the belief systems taught in Muslim countries, which are antisemitic.”

She also took aim at the Gaza Strip’s terrorist rulers, Hamas, while acerbically criticizing the “biased” media’s role in whitewashing the warmongering done by the Islamist Palestinian organization:   

When I watched the news last month, why did they never report that the Hamas terrorist organization fired nearly 700 rockets at Israeli civilians in one weekend or that Hamas used Palestinians in Gaza as human shields? Why do they never condemn Hamas for initiating the attacks? Instead, they only show those killed by the response, in self-defense, and blame Israel.

Idan returned to Israel — she visited previously in 2018 — ahead of the Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Eilat. Following an interview with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and a visit to the parliament, she was joined by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and others for a dinner in the holy city.

This year’s Miss Universe Pageant — which was held on Sunday — was targeted by proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement ever since Israel was announced as the host country in July.

Despite pressure from her own government, which has falsely accused Israel of propagating a system of “apartheid,” Miss South Africa’s representative Lalela Mswane resisted attempts to force her to withdraw from the competition, earning her praise from Idan who commended her strength at not capitulating in the face of intense criticism from those who might otherwise be her biggest champions. Ultimately, Mswane finished in third place.

If there is ever to be peace in the region, we will need more brave voices like Idan and Mswane to speak out.

The author is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, where a version of this article first appeared.

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