Jamaican people root for the underdog, they side with the oppressed and have, for ages, stood firmly against imperialism. This is not in doubt. History bears this out.
When Ethiopia was being invaded by Italy in the 1930s, Jamaican citizens were vocal in their opposition and the nascent Rasta community and the Garveyite movement wrote articles and preached opposition to the war to the masses. Decolonisation of Africa also is a case in point. Before and after our independence we, as a people, have agitated for the total decolonisation of Africa and Asia, insisting that the shackles of colonialism be broken forever. This agitation was present and vocal in the demand to release Nelson Mandela and dismantle Apartheid in South Africa.
The cry of the people has historically been acknowledged and acted on by the leaders, even if only tacitly, and could be seen in our stance in the 50s opposing Apartheid South Africa, recognising China in the 70s, and maintaining the regional call to oust the illegal UDI Government in what was then Rhodesia. It was even seen in Haiti’s 2004 regime change operation when our Government condemned the action and offered Aristide asylum (we revoked it after US threats).
This refusing to take the side of the oppressor has, in recent years, been shown to be a thing of the past as the current Government continues on its path of deepening and cementing relationships with Israel, a country whose own laws describe it in ways apartheid was spoken of, a nation whose own human rights organisations call an apartheid state violating human rights daily, a nation which is built upon the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.
The Government continues to further engage in trade with companies that operate on the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. Most shockingly, it engages security companies that test their technology on the Palestinian resistance movements and the general civilian population as partners to stamp out our rising crime rates.
All of this is startling and should make you stop and deeply ponder the situation; our Government is breaking bread with a nation whose stated policy is ethnic supremacy and will shoot pregnant women to enforce the said policy. More shocking though is the silence from corporate Jamaica, who feeds at the trough all while making high-minded statements locally (and even internationally) on human rights and other issues.
They have, in the past, tried to pass it off as a faux pas, stating either that they did not know the full extent of the situation (really hard to believe), or worse still that no one had complained so they thought it was okay. Those excuses, however, will not hold water today. Everyone knows of the plight of the Palestinians and the issue has been brought up many times locally.
At this moment, Miss Jamaica Universe is set to jet off to the apartheid state that is Israel. The young woman set to take part in this pageant is being used as a pawn (willingly or unwillingly) and her going there will only add shimmer to the criminality going on in that land and act as an excuse. This must not be allowed to stand, and it must be condemned. This total slap in the face of our forebearers who stood up to be counted in similar situations has been called out, it has been noted and a letter petitioning Miss Jamaica Universe to boycott the event has been doing the rounds, I have signed it.
Things have reached such a crescendo that even the papers, institutions which are always wary of touching such third-rail subjects, have been forced to acknowledge the fact that our participation will mean endorsing a state which, by law, has first-, second-, and third-class citizens.
The Palestinian question remains one of the world’s most pressing issues, the process of decolonisation cannot be completed until the Euro-American outpost in the Middle East that is Israel is brought down and a secular Palestine home to Jews, Muslims, Samaritans, Druze, etc is formed and the question is now posed to the Miss Jamaica universe organisers. Will they stand on the side of the oppressed and call out this abomination as South Africa and its participant has done? Will they stand on the side of the individuals who were mowed down for the ‘crime’ of wanting to return home as the UN states they must be allowed to do?
So far it seems as if they will not relent and that they will be sending a representative to this event, but I can’t help but feel that it represents a sea change. Images on local TV showing Ethiopian Jews being brutalised in Israel due to their skin colour stick in the craw of a nation still home to rabid black nationalists. Images of youths being mowed down while demanding their rights and an end to segregation and land theft resound with a country that also engages in such protests. The people are slowly reawakening to the fact that the Palestinian struggle is our struggle and that they are our kin, and while this event may continue with our presence, we can rest assured that the next one will not.
The Government still faces questions about its dealings with Israeli security companies, especially since the Pegasus leaks and the pressure from the media houses who have been digging into this story, joined by a public who demand that Jamaica not only do the legally correct thing but the morally correct thing that will eventually force the state into taking the side of the Palestinian people and dealing with Israel as we dealt with South Africa.
These cultural events are the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to expressing dissatisfaction and disapproval. The organisers of the Jamaica franchise of Miss Universe need to now take a hard look at themselves and ask, do they represent the majority of Jamaicans or do they represent a small minority? We must demand that we boycott this event. If they don’t, we must boycott Miss Jamaica Universe. The time has come where sides must be taken, the people have made it clear which side they are on. The ball is now in the court of business and the Government. Hopefully they join the people in standing up for the Palestinians.