Miss South Africa criticised for ‘pro-Palestinian’ comments before Israel trip

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Pageant winners have always been allowed to make an appearance in Israel despite calls for ban

The comments of the Miss South Africa’s character as “pro-peace” and “pro-Palestinian” have stoked controversy in Israel and anger among her organisers, who are refusing to allow her to take part in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel next month.

Israeli students slam decision to let Miss South Africa compete in event Read more

Ebeniezer Hornby has stepped down as a judge in the competition in Jerusalem next month.

The publicity agent for the Miss South Africa beauty contest, Ruth Szymanski, said on Wednesday that Hornby’s comments “do not represent the values of South Africa”.

“He doesn’t know her and therefore makes his pronouncements with no basis in fact,” Szymanski told the Associated Press.

The Miss Universe organisers, WME/IMG, said the 24-year-old’s appearances in Israel would be treated as private matters.

“The decision not to give Miss South Africa a platform as a contestant in the Miss Universe competition is purely based on the fact that our primary consideration is the contestants’ safety and wellbeing,” the Miss Universe founder and CEO, Paula Shugart, said in a statement.

WME/IMG did not respond to questions about the role of Hornby, the agent, or whether they planned to bar Hornby from future events.

Szymanski told the AP the ambassador to Israel of the Republic of South Africa, ambassador Limor Friedman, offered to replace Hornby on the Miss Universe judging panel.

She said she had agreed to make a public announcement on the issue Thursday but by that time it was too late. The Miss Universe producers have responded by announcing that they are moving the Israeli event to Abu Dhabi.

Israel has been long criticised in the international community for holding “Occupation” of the Palestinians, which the Palestinians see as a violation of their right to self-determination.

When a contestant from Pakistan spoke of being a peace-maker and putting an end to the war between India and Pakistan, she was criticized.

However, when they were given a chance to speak, contestants from El Salvador and Venezuela also spoke of helping out economically in their home countries.

South Africa, the only black country, has rarely had much in common with Israel, which started out as a British protectorate in the 1920s. However the two countries maintained close diplomatic ties during apartheid, and relations have become friendly over the past two decades.

Most countries, including South Africa, had refused to participate in the Miss Universe pageant until Donald Trump and his company bought the rights in 2013.

The South African pageant, which was established in 2007, this year claimed to have the highest number of entrants among any of the 53 countries in the world. There are 20 from South Africa competing in the Miss Universe pageant.

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