January 26, 2022

Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, crowned Miss Universe in Israel despite calls for boycott

Harnaaz Sandhu, Miss India, won the supreme honor by beating Miss Paraguay, Nadia Ferreira, and Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane

Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, was crowned Miss Universe in the Israeli city of Eilat on Monday, in a contest marked by calls for boycott in support of the Palestinian cause. The 70th edition of the annual competition, which was held for the first time in Israel, also had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and in particular the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Harnaaz Sandhu won the supreme honor on the shores of the Red Sea, edging out Miss Paraguay, Nadia Ferreira, and Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane. The South African Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts had urged the latter not to go to Eilat, citing “the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians”.


From left to right: Miss Paraguay, Nadia Ferreira, Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, and Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane.

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

“Complicity”

Palestinian organizations also called on the candidates not to participate in the event. “We urge all participants to withdraw, to avoid any complicity with the apartheid regime of Israel and its violation of the human rights of Palestinians,” called in particular the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. In an interview in November, 2021 Miss Universe Andrea Meza of Mexico said the contest should stay away from politics.

“Miss Universe is not a political, nor a religious movement,” she said. Indonesia and Malaysia, countries which do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, did not send any candidates, but spoke of difficulties linked to the pandemic. Among the contestants were Miss Morocco Kaouthar Benhalima and Miss Bahrain Manar Nadeem Deyani, whose countries normalized relations with Israel last year. The United Arab Emirates – which has also normalized relations with Israel and where Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is due for a historic visit on Sunday – also did not send a candidate “due to time constraints” during the selection. of their national Miss.

Miss Inde, Harnaaz Sandhu.

Miss Inde, Harnaaz Sandhu.

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

Critiques

The contestants landed in Israel late last month and have since visited tourist spots, sometimes coming under criticism for cultural insensitivity. During a stop in the Bedouin town of Rahat, they wore dresses with traditional Palestinian embroidery while rolling grape leaves – what Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez tweeted as a ‘day in the life of a Bedouin “.

In Israel, the Bedouin, a traditionally nomadic people, belong to the community of Palestinian citizens of the Hebrew state, which has long complained of discrimination by the Israeli authorities in housing and education. “Colonialism, racism, cultural appropriation, patriarchy, whitewashing, all in one place,” tweeted Ines Abdel Razek of the Palestinian Institute of Public Diplomacy advocacy group.