“Honor killing” threats prompt dropout from Miss Israel contest

Did you happen to catch this one? What a sad story. This Miss Israel contest really does represent the culture of narcissism and objectification, as well as an oppressive colonialist state. But young Ms. Fares seems to have had few other options—and those opposing her choice seem to also represent something rather oppressive. From the Toronto Globe & Mail, March 15:

SAJUR, NORTHERN ISRAEL — Doaa Fares has spent much of her life wishing she was somebody other than herself: a 17-year-old high-school dropout from a conservative Druze village, where most women settle into conventional roles.

A few months ago, the slim brunette changed her name to Angelina and entered the Miss Israel beauty pageant, hoping to be crowned queen, a title that carries a modelling contract, a cash prize and a new car.

Instead, Angelina was threatened with death, allegedly targeted by a group of men from her village that included two uncles who accused her of disgracing their family name.

When police uncovered an apparent plot to kill her two weeks ago, Angelina disappeared into protective custody. Emerging from hiding last week, she decided to drop out of the competition, fearing for her life.

“My life is much more important than a contest, but it’s very difficult for me to give up my dream,” she said, sitting in her family home.

Police are still investigating alleged threats on her life.

Angelina’s story dominated the Israeli press as a high-profile example of a foiled “honour killing,” where a woman is slain by members of her own family for supposed sexual offences, which have somehow brought shame to the family name.

Last year, 17 Palestinian women were reported killed in honour crimes.

In Israel, seven women were similarly slain.

For Angelina, the controversy began last November, when she decided to enter the Miss Israel contest. She chose the name Angelina, a tribute to her favourite actress, Angelina Jolie.

She was the first Druze contestant to compete in the pageant, which draws thousands of hopefuls from across the country every year.

The first phase of the competition was a bikini contest. Angelina knew parading in front of a five-judge panel in her red two-piece could be considered controversial in the Druze community, whose religion is a mix of Judeo-Christian and Islamic beliefs, influenced by Greek philosophy.

Angelina was chosen as one of 20 finalists. In February, the contestants jetted off to Thailand for some supervised sightseeing and sunbathing with contest organizers. But trouble was brewing at home.

Ads from a recent modelling job began appearing in local magazines. Angelina was pictured in a miniskirt and tank top.

When she returned to Israel, she began receiving threatening phone calls and e-mails.

“They said ‘You’re a Druze girl, you should be ashamed of yourself.’ Some even accused me of prostitution,” she recalled.

Those accusations set off a furious debate. Angelina was invited to appear on national talk shows. Her photo made the front page of local newspapers.

Supporters pressed her to remain in the competition. Critics, including Druze spiritual leader Sheik Mowafak Tarif, demanded she drop out for the good of her community.

Police received a tip that a group of men in the village, including two of Angelina’s uncles, were plotting to kill her.

She was swiftly taken into protective custody in Tel Aviv and all five men were jailed.

But the arrests, coupled with pressure from Druze religious leaders, forced the Fares family to reconsider their decision.

“I stepped out, out of respect for our religious leaders and dignitaries. Above all, it was out of respect for my family,” Angelina explained.

The Fares family did not pursue pressing charges against the uncles, who were subsequently released. Angelina still nurses big dreams. She hired an agent and has agreed to star in a documentary chronicling her ordeal. And while she officially dropped out of competition, she was determined to attend the event as a spectator.

She decided to sit front row, centre.

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