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The Jewish Report Editorial

A trumped up national crisis

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Apparently we have a major crisis in South Africa – or so it would seem.

A 24-year-old beauty queen – who recently became Miss South Africa – is scheduled to compete in an international pageant in Israel. Can you believe this is a crisis?

I, too, am wondering what all the fuss is about. What difference does it make to most South Africans? Why is it in every news bulletin and newspaper? Why are journalists trying to find some skulduggery in this? Why, when we have a country that has a severe electricity crisis and this week, a water crisis, are we focusing on a beauty queen going to a pageant? Seriously!

And if you thought it was strange that the mainstream media have latched onto it, how about the fact that the government has taken sides and is doing what it can to force this young woman not to go. It’s totally absurd.

To the point that a government minister has made what appears to be a veiled threat to this young woman. He “suggested” as a national minister that if she didn’t withdraw it could prove to be disastrous for her future and public standing as a young black woman. Really!

Is it a crime to participate in an international beauty pageant? For goodness sake, this woman has put her all into becoming Miss South Africa, and now all she wants is to compete internationally. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a handful of women in the world. How dare he and the rest of the Israel-haters make her the scapegoat for their political shenanigans!

This same minister, Nathi Mthethwa, was oh so quiet during lockdown when the theatres were closed and actors, singers, and everyone in the entertainment world and aligned careers were literally left to starve. He did nothing to help them when he could.

Yet he has no problem in bullying a young woman who has done nothing wrong and simply wants to compete in a once-in-a-lifetime pageant.

I do find it interesting that Naledi Pandor, our minister of international relations and cooperation, hasn’t got involved in this. Minister Pandor, who most of us know is the more effective and intellectually superior minister, has chosen not to put her political footprint on something that shouldn’t be politicised. In fact, her department has made it clear that it won’t touch this, and will certainly not follow this ugly situation by downgrading the South African embassy in Israel or cutting ties with the Jewish State.

At least someone has sechel (common sense). Why do I have the sense that Pandor is embarrassed by this fracas – or is that just me projecting? I mean, I am embarrassed by this. Around the world, people are reading about it. What must they think?

And while I don’t generally give a fig about what people in other countries think about us, I can’t help but wonder how they perceive a government minister publicly taking sides against a young woman participating in an international beauty pageant while ignoring what he should be doing. Meanwhile, the country has a water and electricity crisis, and we are still reeling from corruption, among other serious issues.

But this poor young woman has been thrown onto centre stage in a performance she doesn’t want to be a part of simply because the pageant is taking place in a holiday town in Israel. Because of this, she and the Miss SA organisers are being punished for wanting to participate. Am I missing something?

Had the pageant taken place in Afghanistan or Iran, where there are serious human-rights problems, would anyone be pushing her not to go? Not in South Africa, that’s for sure.

I don’t for one moment say that Israel doesn’t have its problems, it does. It does have a situation that it needs to deal with, but what country doesn’t? We sure have our fair share within these borders.

Perhaps that dreaded cartoon that Daily Maverick put out this week is an indicator of what this is really about. The cartoonist took the situation and turned it into an antisemitic incident. Sure, Daily Maverick took it down from its site after people complained, but it had already sent it out to all its readers and supporters (many of whom are Jewish).

What astounds me is that it didn’t pick up that it was antisemitic and for that reason was totally unacceptable until the complaints came in. Even then, the real issue wasn’t dealt with when it was pulled off the page, and no explanation was given.

This kind of ugly rhetoric and bullying around attending a pageant is just unacceptable.

This morning (17 November) when I was listening to 702 in my car, I heard that the Miss SA organiser has a public-relations company, which has as one of its clients the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The announcer with seemingly much glee in his voice, said the JNF was a “Zionist organisation”. It doesn’t take much to join the dots, he said.

So, let me get this straight. If a PR company has 40 clients, each one would have an influence over the other? Is that what he’s claiming? That because the JNF – which most of us know plants trees, develops the land, and save lives around Israel – may be a client, it would then have some influence over Miss SA and the pageant in Israel. Sorry, I can’t see the connection and frankly, it’s insulting to the Miss SA organiser and its PR company.

There’s no skulduggery, just pure and simply bullying orchestrated by the anti-Israel lobby, for whom bullying is a favourite tactic.

These Israel-haters speak about human right, but what of the human rights of this woman to choose what she wants to do and what feels right to her. She doesn’t have to be a politician, but she certainly should have a right to make up her own mind without being bullied and threatened.

I stand by her making her own mind up without the muddiness of the bullying from the Minister Mthtewa and the anti-Israel lobby. It would give me great pleasure to see her win Miss Universe.

Shabbat Shalom!

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