Miss Universe: Peace In The Middle East

Those of us who were still children in the early 90’s and 2000’s will remember the term “peace in the middle east” as a salutation to a friend, foe or acquaintance we no longer wish to play with, see or talk to for that day.  Instead of saying Peace-Out, we’d say “Peace In The Middle East” indicating that there is no agreement, or that peace between “us” is something that would not happen in our lifetime just like the ever elusive peace deal in the Middle East.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the oldest in the world and it has divided everyone from families, friends, colleagues, communities, countries and regions across the world. 

The unresolved question baffling older and newer generations has been who has the legal right to Jerusalem. Is it the Palestinians? The Israelis? Or both? Based on whose version of history?

Many people today seem understandibly confused about why the conflict in the middle east, particularly between Israel and Palestine, remains so polarising, divisive, and an (often) career (limiting) ending topic for anyone who speaks for or against the State of Israel and it’s bombardment of Palestinian people and occupation of Palestinian land.

The topic is so divisive that pressure is mounting on some beauty pageant contestants to withdraw from competing in the upcoming global beauty pageant, Miss Universe 2021, to be held in Israel’s resort town of Eilat in December.

The South African government which is politically opposed to the Israeli occupation recently withdrew its support for newly crowned Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, after it failed to convince her and the Miss SA organisers to boycott the pageant in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The South African Ministry of Arts, Sport and Culture said in a statement that “The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented and the Government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.”  

It warned that participating in the pageant in Israel, would be a career limiting and a reputation damaging move for Miss Mswane. “Miss South Africa’s reputation and overall standing will be far more advanced in South Africa and internationally in comparison to a once off event that can prove disastrous to her future and public standing as a young, black woman.” 

Especiallly since on a special visit to the Middle East Arch Bishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu once said of the Palestinians: “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.” 

The ANC also joined forces with the government calling on Miss Mswane and other contestants to boycott the event just as nine other contestants had boycotted the 1976 Miss World Pageant in solidarity with oppressed black/non white South Africans.

Since the public outrage and debate  we have not heard from Miss Mswane herself except a note from the Miss SA pageant organisers saying she has chosen to attend and the event is not “politically motivated.”

It’s business.

In my book, Soweto To Beirut (2021) I wrestle with and reflect on some of the root causes of the conflict in the Middle East and the inner psychological, spiritual and religious conflict it presents for (young) black Africans and all Bible believing Christians all over the world.

“I tried hard to block out the issue of God in the story I was covering…. Because if I truly believed in God, in His existence, I would also have to accept that this war, the war that I was covering was also part of His Divine Will. It was also part of His Plan. I was not ready to accept that my God could be such a violent, callous and ruthless being.”

Despite publicly withdrawing support for Miss South Africa 2021, South Africa still maintains Diplomatic and Trade Relations with the State of Israel even though the former have been reduced to a minimum following former US President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017.

Perhaps it’s time we all looked within and asked ourselves if we are all still praying to the same God. After all it is also written that “you cannot serve both God and money… “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Soweto to Beirut (2021) follows a young South African Journalist on an emotional journey of self-discovery while covering conflict in Beirut, Lebanon (2006). The experience of war precipitates a deep loss of faith, triggering childhood memories of growing up in Soweto in the early 80s – with dramatic implications for relationships in her life. It’s a fast-paced journey through time and place giving you the sensation of being nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Another perspective on how intergenerational trauma can wreak havoc in the personal and professional space.https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/june-16-soweto-youth-uprising

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