BDS is lying about global attendance at Miss Universe - opinion

A number of countries have dropped out of Miss Universe because of COVID, but BDS is spreading rumors that it's because they're boycotting Israel.

 NELSON MANDELA’S eldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, speaks during a protest by Palestinian supporters earlier this month in Johannesburg, calling for Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane to withdraw from the Miss Universe pageant in Israel.  (photo credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS)
NELSON MANDELA’S eldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, speaks during a protest by Palestinian supporters earlier this month in Johannesburg, calling for Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane to withdraw from the Miss Universe pageant in Israel.
(photo credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS)

Since the announcement that the Miss Universe pageant would be held in Eilat, BDS groups have been up in arms over the event, targeting and harassing dozens of participants from around the world and urging them to cancel their attendance at the event.

While multiple countries have announced they would not attend, no country has canceled due to political convictions. Yet that hasn’t stopped BDS from lying about it. 

Shortly after the announcement was made, the Miss Malaysia organization officially announced that they would not be able to participate because COVID restrictions had prevented them from holding the qualifying pageant in Malaysia. Similarly, Belize, Indonesia and Laos pulled out for the same reason. Yet BDS spread rumors on social media that these countries were “boycotting Israel” and used the rumors to publish articles with falsified information after the official organizations had published contradicting statements. 

But even after being exposed for their dishonesty, BDS groups are continuing their campaign against beauty queens. Last week was no exception. The Miss Barbados organization posted on Instagram that they would be unable to participate due to the tightening of COVID restrictions. 

In response, “Africa 4 Palestine”, as well as hundreds of other anti-Israel activists and groups, gloated on social media that “another country” was boycotting Israel (again, despite the fact that not a single country is boycotting Israel for this pageant).

Miss Universe 2021 (credit: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION (MUO))Miss Universe 2021 (credit: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION (MUO))

In the case of Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, the harassment got personal. For weeks, Miss South Africa was targeted with harassment across all social media platforms for her refusal to withdraw from the event. Unlike the other participants who faced an onslaught of social media hate, Miss South Africa also faced criticism and bullying from members of her own government. 

When she refused to back down from competing, South African MP Mandla Mandela took to the South African press to attack her and demand she boycott Israel. When that didn’t work, BDS groups issued a fake press release stating that Mswane withdrew from the pageant, and when that didn’t work either, the South African Ministry of Culture publicly withdrew its support for the Miss South Africa organization and threatened to never work with them again. 

A spokesman for the Ministry of Culture went on to bash Mswane in the press for pursuing her dreams and representing her country in the pageant. Even this appalling bullying campaign aimed at a young, black, South African woman failed. Despite all the threats, Miss South Africa shared on Saturday she was proudly headed to Israel to represent her country, and sees it as an opportunity for “dialogue and peace.” Another smackdown for BDS.

Perhaps the most laughable attempt by BDS to interfere with the Miss Universe pageant was their wide distribution of a post from October by “Miss Greece” Rafaela Plastira, claiming she could not compete in the pageant due to her commitment to the Palestinians. As it turns out, Plastira wasn’t Miss Greece for the Miss Universe pageant at all. In fact, sources at the Miss Universe Greece organization, SG Hellas, claimed they had no idea why she would be claiming to be the representative for Miss Greece. 

“Rafaela Plastira’s statement that she will not participate in the Miss Universe pageant... is false.... [Plastira] was never supposed to represent our country in the Miss Universe pageant,” said Giorgos Kouvaris, the president of the body that selects the Miss Universe contestant for Greece.

Digging into the issue further, it was confirmed that Ms. Plastira is a beauty pageant contestant, but in the Miss World program, a completely different set of pageants whose competition is being held in Puerto Rico, not Israel.

It’s still unclear why Plastira made the comment at all since she was never going to Israel in the first place. But reality won’t stop BDS. Even after the story was exposed, BDS groups continued to spam social media claiming “Miss Greece” was boycotting Israel.

Whatever BDS groups and activists may be lying about next, this is the reality: on December 12, dozens of countries (including South Africa) will proudly send their representatives to compete in the Miss Universe pageant – an event that is ending up much more symbolic for unity and coexistence than originally thought.

All of these young women deserve support for refusing to give in to online bullying and harassment, which they received only because of a small group of people motivated purely by hatred for Israel. 

The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative.