Noy Michaelov is the last Jewish Israeli to compete at Miss Earth back in 2009
The official Miss Earth facebook page has recently announced that a Miss Palestine will be joining the Miss Earth 2015 pageant. This announcement is very significant in many ways and has wide ranging consequences. On top of this, the announcement coincides with the shifting political winds in the Middle East that centered around the existence of Israel and the right of Palestine to have a state of its own. History has taught us that the modern day Israel was once created post-Holocaust as the homeland of Jews which in turn had been detrimental to the rights and peaceful existence of Palestinians. The Arab world reacted swiftly and violently when Israel declared its existence and chaos ensued.
When Miss Earth announced the participation of Palestine, it was very evident that many in the pageantry world are still ignoramus about the true story behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One particular issue is how majority of pageant enthusiasts has this general notion that all Palestinians are Muslims and that they are averse to beauty pageants. Never mind that Muslim women do participate in beauty pageants in Turkey, Lebanon and Tunisia but it should be clarified that there are sizable number of Palestinian Christians. Many also argued that recognizing Palestine is detrimental to the existence of Israel. The truth is, majority of nations around the world do recognize both the state of Israel and Palestine. Well in the fact, the Philippines, a nation where Miss Earth is based, do have diplomatic relations with both countries.
Today, while Israel is prosperous, Palestine is struggling and technically in itself is not a state. The 1947 UN plan of partition was never realized with Jewish settlements continue to encroach the territories that were originally for the Palestinians. Several peace accords has been signed all of which with the ultimate goal of a Jewish state existing side by side peacefully with a Palestinian state but ultimately all came into naught. Recently, with the reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu for his 4th term as prime minister, the Israeli stance on the Palestinian issue drifted further to the right. During the dying days of campaign, Netanyahu hinted that he will no longer support the plan for a Palestinian state and made racist comments against Arab Israelis.
The Israeli attitude towards Palestine is getting hostile but is quite different in the international scale. The fact that a Miss Palestine will join Miss Earth means that the state is now moving forward towards full international recognition of its existence. In November 2012, in a vote of 138-9, the United Nations General Assembly voted to accord Palestine an observer status at the UN. One by one, members of the EU began recognizing Palestine as a state mostly through a bill pushed in their respective parliaments. The biggest hindrance to the moves of Palestine for international recognition is the United States. The US has vetoed every resolution that would allow Palestine to sit as one of the legitimate nations in any branch of the UN. But Palestine is winning in the UN. It will soon sit as one of the member nations of International Court of Justice.
Maria Abboud is an Arab-Israeli who has a dual citizenship according to an Israeli news outlet
It would be interesting to see how Israel will react to these developments at Miss Earth. Will the nation boycott Miss Earth because of the Palestinian participation? Logic dictates that it should but what is happening on the ground says that it is unlikely. Israel debuted at Miss Earth in 2003 and at that time the franchise holder of Miss Earth is LaIsha (For the Woman), an Israeli women’s magazine that also operates the Miss Israel franchise. All of the Miss Israel competing at Miss Earth at the time were Jewish women. In 2011, the franchise was transferred to Lilac, an Arab-Israeli women’s magazine, which began sending Arab-Israeli beauties to the pageant. Interestingly, these women including the latest Miss Earth Israel Tala Safadi have dual citizenship according to a report by Times of Israel. So basically, since 2011, we all have seen Palestinian women competing at Miss Earth.
If Miss Earth will recognize Palestine, will other Big4 pageants follow suit? That is quite a tricky question but the more likely answer is no. Miss Universe is based in the US and the country unabashedly vetoed every UN resolution that recognizes Palestine as a state. The Jewish lobby is very strong in the US and has swayed the American policies in the Middle East in favor of Israel for decades. Miss World is a British institution and while the UK’s House of Commons have voted 274 votes to 12 last year to recognize the State of Palestine existing peacefully side by side with the State of Israel, the vote was largely symbolic. It has no bearing whatsoever to the official stance of the British government which does not recognize Palestine as a state. Well in fact, the current franchise of Miss Earth in Israel has approached both Miss World and Miss Universe to allow Palestine to participate but the proposal was immediately turned down. Miss International is based in Japan and while the Japanese government does not recognize the Palestinian state, it is relaxing its policies to the point that it is recognizing Palestinian passports and nationality. This means that a Miss Palestine competing at Miss International could be a reality soon.
The likely outcome of a Miss Palestine competing at Miss Earth will be the enormous interest of the press towards the pageant. This is akin to the attention that Miss Earth received when Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai participated in the pageant in 2003. It would indeed be interesting to see a Miss Israel competing side by side with a Miss Palestine but with a hope that it will not create the same controversy when Miss Israel posed right next to Miss Lebanon at the recent Miss Universe pageant. The larger of context of this however is how politics has played significant role in the world of pageantry. Since beauty pageants, at least in the Big4, are basically competition of nations, what is happening in the political arena will simply resonate in pageantry world. On a positive note, although it may sound farfetched, a Miss Palestine competing at Miss Earth will highlight the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinians in the world stage and their dream to have a nation of their own will be given a significant boost. Indeed, while some people continually downplay the significance and relevance of beauty pageants nowadays, a statehood of a struggling nation could actually be cemented simply by that shining green sash.