EXCLUSIVE: Half-Palestinian Miss Universe Contestant Loves Israel

Gazini Ganados is proud of her Palestinian heritage, but doesn’t believe that should make her an enemy of the Jewish state

By Yochanan Visser | | Topics: Coexistence
Despite her Palestinian background, Filipino beauty queen Gazini Ganados says she loves Israel Photo: EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

We have already witnessed how an Iraqi beauty queen openly testified of her affection for Israel, and how Lebanese participants in the Miss Universe contest defied all Arab hatred for the Jewish state when they took selfies with Miss Israel during the pageant.

These Arab contestants have paid a heavy price for their pro-Israel stance.

Lebanese model Saly Greige was heavily criticized for her selfie with Miss Israel, while her colleague Dana Zreik was stripped of her title of Miss Universe Lebanon 2018 for doing the same.

Iraqi beauty queen Sarah Idan’s family had to flee Iraq after she posted a selfie with Miss Israel Adal Gandelsman on social media.

Idan now lives in the United States and was recently stripped of her Iraqi citizenship after she visited Israel, where she declared that Israelis and Iraqis are not enemies.

This year’s Miss Universe contest will most likely see a similar phenomenon since Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados, who is half-Palestinian, has vowed to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Idan and her Lebanese colleagues.

In an exclusive interview with Israel Today, Ganados said she would love to take a photo with Miss Israel and promised to visit the Jewish state after the pageant in December.

The Filipina beauty never knew her Palestinian father, who reportedly resides in the PA-controlled areas in Israel, but she expressed her hope to meet him and to convince him that peace with Israel is possible. She also thinks it is dead wrong to demonize Israel or the Israeli people, and vowed to hold the hand of Miss Israel.

Below is the full interview.


Israel Today: Do you feel more Filipino or Palestinian?

Gazini Ganados: I am a proud Filipina.  I love my country, and I want to win the Miss Universe title for my country and my flag. I am also very proud of my father’s heritage, and I actually thank him for the good genes he has given me. I think of my father’s heritage is an advantage, and a true representation of what the Philippines is all about: diversity and tolerance. We have people from all backgrounds, and at the end of the day, we all love the Philippines. My Palestinian side complements my pride in my Filipina identity. 


Miss Iraq chose to take a photo with Miss Israel and paid a heavy price for doing so. Would you take a selfie with Miss Israel?

I love meeting new people and taking pictures with them. This is not about being Christian, Muslim or Jewish, this is not about holding an identity. We are all human, and Israelis are humans like us. It is not right, nor fair, to demonize anyone because of their identity or heritage. This would be against everything that is human.


So, you, as half Palestinian, do not think it is right to demonize Israel?

It is wrong to demonize anyone, any people or any nation. The title I am competing for is Miss Universe. Basically, the most important tenet pageant is the universal value of all humanity. We are all like flowers in the same garden. To answer your question, it is time for the world to see everyone as equal.


What do you think of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

It is summed up by one word: conflict. There is nothing right about having a conflict for a few decades.  In fact, as I hope to serve the Philippines by winning the title, I also wish to make an example by connecting with and holding the hand of Miss Universe Israel. Let the message be simple: Beauty is in humanity, true beauty is in love. We all need it. A conflict, no matter what the excuse, is useless and uncalled for. 


You say you have a passion for the Middle East. Will you visit Israel as Miss Iraq did?

I love to travel and connect to all people in the world.  I definitely would love to visit Israel. I want to see Israel’s beautiful beaches, the Dead Sea, and also visit the holy sites, including the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.


Would you visit the Kotel (Western Wall), the Jewish holy site at the Temple Mount?

Of course. While I don’t care much for politics, holding the title of Miss Universe Philippines and having a Palestinian father obligates me to carry the message: Let the love of God unite us, and not set us apart. Let the love of Jerusalem unite us all.  Yes, I would happily visit the Kotel. It is already on my list.


Tell us about your Palestinian father.

I don’t talk much about that, to be honest, but my father is a Palestinian who resides in the Palestinian territories. I was blessed enough to inherit his genes and interest in the Middle East and the Arab culture.  


Do you as a Christian anticipate any problems should you visit your father’s hometown given that he is Muslim?

I hope not. Because, again, this is not just about being Christian, Muslim or Jewish, this is not about holding an identity, we are all human, Israelis are humans like us. It is not right, nor fair, to set boundaries to anyone because of their identity or heritage. This would be against everything that is human.


How do you think you could help the Palestinian Arabs make peace with their Jewish neighbors?

The Palestinians and the rest of the world needs to understand that humanity is one race, we are the human race. I want to tell the world, as a proud Filipina, that every human, including Israelis, that I love them. I believe this message will resonate at least with Palestinian women.


Do you know that there are many people from the Philippines living in Israel, and do you plan to visit representatives of their community here?

I have always been impressed by how well-treated the Filipinos are in Israel. They come back with wonderful stories, and this is one of the main reasons I will visit Israel: Sharing my success as Miss Universe Philippines with our workers who are far away from home, I say thank you to Israel for taking care of our people.


What would your message be to the Palestinians and to the Israelis?

Watch me in December competing for Miss Universe and wish me luck, just as I wish both sides happiness, love, stability and the best for their families.

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