Dear Haidar Eid, author of ‘Open Letter from Palestine to Miss South Africa”

Dear Haidar Eid,

We don’t know each other. I only know that your name is Haider Eid and just heard of your name this month, when your letter written in response to Miss South Africa’s attendance at the Miss Universe pageant held at the Port of Eilat, on the Southern Negev desert and Red Sea, appeared on social media.

I understand the area was once named Umm Al-Rashrash, and designated as part of the Jewish state in the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and at the time, apparently ‘consisted of one or two police huts’, and was formally granted to Israel in the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

You claim the area was ‘ethnically-cleansed’ and the result is an ‘apartheid state’, and that you, at the very outset, are somehow an expert on the subject of apartheid, since you “spent six years in South Africa” where you apparently received a “Ph.D. degree and even citizenship”.

If indeed you have doctoral qualifications on the subject, (or are reading for a Ph.d ) then you will understand that not one Palestinian was arraigned by the apartheid state on treason charges, and that Jews, including Zionists, overwhelmingly contributed to the struggle for freedom. The fate for example of Arthur Goldreich, one of the 13 Jewish treason trialists in 1956 is illustrative of the diverse cross-section of Jews who were imprisoned for their belief that ‘all humans are created equal’.

As a humble dissident with merely an undergraduate degree conferred by the UCT Centre for African Studies (see below), I find absolutely no evidence of any tangible support for the struggle within South Africa from either the PLO/Fatah or Hamas, but rather observe that Nelson Mandela was very much a supporter of self-determination for both parties to the conflict. It was Mandela who explained his position on the Ted Koppel show:

“We identify with the PLO because just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination. I went further however to say, that the support for Yasser Arafat and his struggle does not mean that the ANC has ever doubted the right of Israel to exist as a state, legally. We have stood quite openly and firmly for the right of that state to exist within secure borders.”

Far from delaying liberation from the racist regime as you suggest, I believe Mandela meant that South Africa’s unique expression of human rights and freedom as enshrined in the Freedom Charter and our constitution, would invariably be delayed by the failure of Israel and Palestine to come to a similar accord, and that it was incumbent upon our country to do everything possible to assist the resulting peace settlement?

I therefore challenge you as a Gazan, to meet the liberal values of our constitution, or to provide at very least, a similar Freedom Charter including support for women rights and LGBTIQ+ rights in your future Palestinian State?

You claim to “live in the Gaza concentration camp which has been under a medieval siege imposed by apartheid Israel since 2007.”

There is no conclusive definition of the use of apartheid in this context as anything more than an analogy — a highly flawed UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report for instance, examining the policies of Israel within the context of apartheid was withdrawn by UN Secretary-general Guterres in 2017, while the Goldstone report was similarly retracted in part. You as an ‘associate professor of literature’, should know the term ‘concentration camp’ is ordinarily applied to emergency measures to keep civilians concentrated inside a designated area within national borders, not outside national borders.

Since the UN refuses to recognise Gaza as anything more than an extension of Israeli territory, despite its disengagement and withdrawal in 2005, I can understand why you may be less than academic in your use of the definition, and are surely upset at being used as a pawn in an obvious power-play over territory claimed for the future ‘State of Palestine’?

Be that as it may, the fact remains that you still share a border with Egypt, a country which you ignore, perhaps due to its peace treaty with Israel? Gaza, though denied access to Israel proper, is not surrounded by the Jewish state in anything resembling a “medieval siege”. In this sense your siege is metaphorical, rather than literal, in the same way your use of the term apartheid, is merely analogous, and not substantive.

For the record, no inhabitants of any of the former apartheid bantustans ever complained of being under occupation, nor lamented about living in ‘concentration camps’, an emotive and tragic term, given the Palestinian leadership’s canvassing before the 1942 Wannsee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, and where Zionists were sent to the gas chambers alongside Non-Zionists.

Similarly, the “All-Palestine” government which ruled Gaza from 1948 -1958 was not created by Israel, but rather the Arab League. Unlike the apartheid-era bantustans, the current Hamas government is not a puppet of Tel Aviv.

Nothwithstanding, one must and should express support and sympathy for the children of Gaza who suffer needlessly from malnutrition as the result of the policies of politicians. As I have long maintained, when it comes to the Middle East, this is a war being fought by adults against children, in a situation of injustice vs injustice.

It is saddening to hear that “the 2 million people living in the strip do not have access to electricity, clean water, medicine”. I however fail to grasp your need and desire for Israeli consumer goods? As you may know, there is a waning boycott of Israeli consumer goods in my country, as well as an arms embargo.

Whither the cultural boycott?

That you appear to go the extra mile in demanding at the very outset a cultural boycott, in this instance, a boycott of a Miss Universe pageant, is highly problematic for a number of reasons, the least of which is the failure, or rather the inability of BDS and its proponents, to distinguish between Zionists and Non-Zionists, in the same manner that many Palestinians fail to appreciate the difference between Theist and non-Theists.

Given the religious and cultural issues surrounding contemporary Jewish secular identity, and the de facto banning of my Jewishness (as opposed to other’s official religion) I can only speak from my own experience.

Despite my early academic journey, in which I, at one time, provided unconditional support for the Palestinian struggle, only to experience campus exclusions, academic sanctions and bannings of anti-apartheid organisations, (you can read my response to Seth Rogen here) I was nevertheless, and despite my beliefs and outlook, subjected to an obscene, racist religious inquisition by South Africa’s corrupt legal authorities in 2010 — resulting in a complete reappraisal and alteration of my position — the more so, when it comes to contemporary post-Enlightenment, democratic values.

I have noticed that when it comes to women and gay rights, Palestinian leadership fails miserably. According to Amnesty International, women in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority continue to face discrimination and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence. An Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip ruled in February that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel.

On the ‘moderate side’, President Mahmoud Abbas amended an election law in March, raising a quota for women in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority legislature to 26%, ‘not the promised 30%’. This is still a far cry from the 50% female quotient of the population, and the result devalues women.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender (LGBTIQ+) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBTIQ+ residents. The Amnesty 2020 report on Palestine states: “Section 152 of the Penal Code in Gaza criminalizes [male] consensual same-sex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” In 2019, the Palestinian Authority police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organization Al Qaws and demanded that residents report ‘suspicious’ activities.

Several reports on the subject of so-called Israel Apartheid have been discredited in recent years, since clearly nations are not races. While ethnicity plays a part, there is no science to back up the claim.

Sincerely Yours,

David Robert Lewis

Dissident, living in a Free “Secular” Country.

SEE: Miss SA: Mind the gender gap, Mr Roper

SEE: KENNETH MOKGATLHE: GOVT OWES MISS SA AN APOLOGY FOR WITHDRAWING ITS SUPPORT

SEE: Written statement submitted by United Nations Watch, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

Miss SA: Mind the gender gap, Mr Roper

CHRIS ROPER WRITES “we need to demand accountability of beauty pageant contestants and governments alike. And consistency in their application of principle.” Roper’s views are decidedly patriarchal, old-fashioned, and redolent of gentlemen clubs and men’s magazines. He thus appears to garner his information on the subject from Wikipedia and his principles with reference to one Iqbal Surve and the Independent Group.

That’s the daily media outlet still touting a decuplet, multi-child trafficking story.

Woman have been getting their own act together and deciding their fate for themselves ever since women’s suffrage started in 1889. A former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan fully supports Miss SA, and has come out in support of Lalela Mswane’s stance. It is her decision as a women after all, to attend or not at the end of the day.

Since Roper’s article is behind a paywall, I can only surmise on the rest of its contents, but his macho rhetoric appears to be in line with other male BDS chauvinists and homophobes, those who continue to stake their claim as [white] males in determining the views of black women such as Mswane

In South Africa white women were given the right to vote by the ‘Women’s Enfranchisement Act of 1930’. It would tragically take another 6 decades before black women were effectively able to vote in 1994.

In contrast, black women have been able to vote since the inception of the state of Israel in 1948, and following the events of the Nazi Holocaust which stripped Jews of legal status as persons. Racist policies which turned European Jews into chattel slaves, to be euthenised when the German war machine had no further use of slave labour. Ethiopian Jews for instance comprise some 3.3 percent of the population, while Maghrabi Jews, those from North Africa number in the region of 750 000. All of whom possess the vote.

Roper like many other misguided individuals, appears to claim black women experience the same situation of apartheid disenfranchisement in Israel, while Gaza and the Palestinian Authority are somehow ‘beacons of hope when it comes to LGTBIQ+ rights’. He thus embraces a false supercessionist movement to replace Israel with yet another Arab State within a broader constellation of Arab States under the rubric of Palestinian statehood. (please see: Letter: Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ ).

Far from being ‘occupied’ and surrounded by Israel, Gaza shares a border with Egypt and is a separate country, for all intents and purposes. The situation in the PA is a lot different and may be likened to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. No apartheid bantustan ever complained of ‘being occupied’ and the ANC never fought an occupation. For the record, I support the Corpus Separatum viz. vi. the status of Jerusalem and do not favour partition. (please see: What if Israel didn’t exist? Isacowitz vs Shain)

The reverse is true.

When it comes to women and gay rights, Palestinian leadership fails miserably. There has never been a female Palestinian head of state, while Golda Meir was Israel’s PM from 1969-1974. According to Amnesty International, women in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority continue to face discrimination and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence. An Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip ruled in February that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel.

On the ‘moderate side’, President Mahmoud Abbas amended an election law in March, raising a quota for women in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority legislature to 26%, ‘not the promised 30%’. This is still a far cry from the 50% female quotient of the population, and the result devalues women.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender (LGBT) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBTIQ+ residents. The Amnesty 2020 report on Palestine states: “Section 152 of the Penal Code in Gaza criminalizes [male] consensual same-sex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” In 2019, the Palestinian Authority police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organization Al Qaws and demanded that residents report ‘suspicious’ activities.

Several reports on the subject of so-called Israel Apartheid have been discredited in recent years, since clearly nations are not races. While ethnicity plays a part, there is no science to back up the claim.

Discredited reports

The infamous 1975 UN resolution 3379 ‘equating zionism with racism‘ was overturned by an overwhelming majority of nations in 1991. The same assertion was voted out of the final text of the controversial 2001 Durban Conference on Racism  and the text reaffirmed at Durban II. A highly flawed 2017 UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report examining the policies of Israel within the context of a UN definition of apartheid was withdrawn by UN Secretary-general Guterres. It famously introduced race categories in order to arrive at its conclusions.

The same category error appears in an equally flawed 2009 local HSRC report written around the time of Durban II and a subsequent NGO Human Rights Watch report published earlier this year.  Eric Goldstein of Human Rights Watch has thus been referring to the unrest surrounding the Sheik Jarra neighbourhood of Jerusalem (which escalated into the incursions on the Temple Mount, and the recent war pursued by Gaza this year) as a conflict occurring in a ‘mixed race’ area.

His assertions beg the question: why are black Jews invisible when it comes to the media? Is it because a Yemenite Jew from Yemen is not considered black enough, nor even Arab for that matter?

While many of the policies of Israel may be considered ‘reprehensible and morally indefensible’, (as are the policies of many other states) the situation is rather one of injustice vs injustice ( the more so considering the Farhud massacre, and the complicity of Palestinian leadership at the Wannsee conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was adopted).

The root cause unfortunately, is not race, (a loaded term) but the confluence of ​religion and ethnicity and in particular, religious schism which has resulted in nationality on the basis of religion​, a fact common to many Middle Eastern countries.

SEE: Feminists divided over Miss South Africa

BDS beauty rhetoric removes women & gay rights

THE MISS UNIVERSE pageant was not the subject of a boycott when it was held in apartheid South Africa. In fact, the oft referred to event never occurred, and was never scheduled. Our country does not appear as a location on the list of Miss Universe pageants held every year since 1952 — except for a sole 1996 event which was mooted for Johannesburg but then shifted to the USA.

Although some contestants refused to participate in various international pageants if the then Miss South Africa attended, none were barred by their respective governments. They thus exercised their freedom of choice.

The organisers behind the campaign to remove Miss South Africa from the competition being held in Israel this year would like us to believe that similar government actions were taken against the self-same beauty pageant held in apartheid South Africa. It is only the 1996 Miss Universe event which was scheduled to be held in the country, two years after the first democratic elections, but which was later moved.

The blatant denial of the rights of Lalela Mswane, a black woman to decide her fate for herself, especially when it comes to political issues, is both patronising and racist. In a televised interview Palestine4Africa’s Bram Hanekom, upbraids Mswane’s decision to attend, insisting that he, as a white male, should decide her future. In a missive published by IOL, he tells Mswane: “Do as you are told”.

Hanekom claims that since boycotts were used to good measure as one of the many tools of the anti-apartheid movement, similar strategies will be equally effective in ‘gaining rights for Palestinians’. He appears oblivious to the fact that if such an event had been held in the country during the height of apartheid, no black contestants would have been allowed to attend.

The first official Miss South Africa pageant held in 1956 was only open to “white” (Caucasian) females and was organized to send a representative to London for the Miss World pageant”. That year Norma Vorster was crowned Miss South Africa. Two years later, Penny Coelen, was crowned and would later go on to win Miss World. It was not until 1977 that all persons of all races were allowed to compete in the Miss SA competition. “Prior to that, people of colour competed in the Miss Africa South pageant, which was renamed Miss Black South Africa in 1977.”

It is unclear what the goals of the BDS affiliated campaign are — whether or not they are campaigning to effectively end women’s rights in Israel, or merely seek to maintain the status quo viz vi LGTBIQ rights in the region, a situation in which Gay rights are restricted in most Arab States and in some cases subject to the death penalty. Apartheid was a policy separating persons according to pseudo-scientific race classification, not national or religious affiliation, and homosexuality was outlawed.

According to Amnesty International (AI), women in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority continue to face discrimination and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence. An Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip ruled in February that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel. Meanwhile President Mahmoud Abbas amended an election law in March, raising a quota for women in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority legislature to 26%, not the promised 30%, and still a long way away from the 50% female quotient of the population.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender (LGBT) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. An AI 2020 report on Palestine states: “Section 152 of the Penal Code in Gaza criminalizes [male] consensual same-sex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” In 2019, the Palestinian Authority (i.e., West Bank) police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organization Al Qaws and demanded that residents report ‘suspicious’ activities.

Injustice cannot be overcome by Injustice. Forward to a Freedom Charter for the Middle East. Forward to human rights for all. #StandBySecularism

SEE: Former Miss Iraq supports Miss SA for not quitting Miss Universe pageant in Israel

[published in part by Cape Argus and Daily News 23 November 2020]

Demi-Leigh: Look how far we’ve come South Africa

IN 1978 Margaret Gardener won the Miss Universe beauty pageant. The event held in Acapulco was not without controversy. John Vorster was president of a white minority regime. Apartheid was in full sway. Nelson Mandela was in jail. The Miss South Africa competition was an all-white affair. I was in kindergarten. I still remember the fuss about Gardener’s black swimsuit, my first “sexual awakening”, and the many Scope covers and feature stories which followed, all written next to articles promoting the SADF, Rhodesia, and South Africa’s control of South West Africa.

On 26 November 2017 to our surprise, Demi-Leigh Nel Peters, a bubbly girl from Sedgefield, a small coastal town on South Africa’s east coast, won the Miss Universe for the second time in nearly four decades. Democracy is in full sway. Jacob Zuma is president. The crooks, not the democrats are all in jail. At least some of them are. If only our collective future looked as bright as Demi-Leigh.

If you thought this was going to be just another pageant, then, I’m afraid you got it all wrong. Not only is Demi-Leigh a youth ambassador for the nation, but she totally axed it, and flawed her hosts on several New York talk shows with her confidence and personality, and a reign which looks set to be all about surprises.

Yes, to her critics, she does not represent the majority perception of beauty in Africa nor is she black like Miss Haiti, nor a superpower like Melania Trump. What she has, is the kind of sass that you find in every small town Afrikaner girl in South Africa, a nation still coming to grips with its past, at the same time that we are marking the fourth anniversary of the death of Mandela, with the neck and neck race for president of the ANC, and a democratic process which has seen the rise of a brand new political party under Makhosi Khosa.

Our self-perception, could do with a bit of confidence and what Demi Leigh represents is the kind of bubbling eruption of opportunity which marked South Africa’s return to the free world in 1994. The Marie Claire fuss about her tan (take it from me, the colour of her skin is real), has no place in a non-racial society. It has even less place in the wider world. The Miss Universe pageant is anything but an all-white affair as suggested by activist critics.

Janelle “Penny” Commissiong was the first black woman to hold the Miss Universe title. She won the title in 1977 at the Miss Universe pageant held in the Dominican Republic.

A list of “black” titleholders compiled by Afropedia include:

Leila Lopes (2011), Angola
Mpule Kwelagobe (1999), Botswana
Wendy Fitzwilliam (1998), Trinidad and Tobago
Chelsi Smith (1995), USA
Janelle Commissiong(1977), Trinidad and Tobago

Time to put aside racial stigma and celebrate.

South Africa gave the world, Steven Bantu Biko, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Caster Semenya, Wayde van Niekerk, Elon Musk and Trevor Noah. Now is the right moment for Demi-Leigh Nel Peters.