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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 04:33 GMT

World: Middle East

Arab crowned Miss Israel

Rana Raslan (centre) revels in the limelight of her new title

A 21-year-old Arab has made history by winning a beauty contest to be named Miss Israel.

Rana Raslan, who will be Israel's representative in the Miss World contest, said she hoped to "represent Israel as well as possible".

Jeremy Bowen reports: "Arabs feel they are second class citizens"
She said: "It doesn't matter whether I am an Arab or a Jew, we must prove to the world that we can live together.

"There is no difference between Arabs and Jews, we are all human beings."

The new Miss Israel was born in the northern city of Haifa and works for a law firm. She wins a car, a modelling contract and the chance to represent Israel in the Miss World pageant.

[ image: Tears of joy for the new Miss Israel]
Tears of joy for the new Miss Israel
Israeli-Arabs make up about one million of Israel's 5.9 million citizens and have long complain of discrimination by the state.

The outgoing Miss Israel, Lior Abargil, went on to be crowned Miss World but her year as the planet's most beautiful woman was shattered by an alleged rape.

She is currently involved in a court case against the man she says raped her in Italy shortly before she won the Miss World title. The accused man has denied the charge.

At the Miss Israel contest, held in a Tel Aviv theatre, Lior Abargil said: "To all of those who consider beauty contests to be meat markets you should know, we do with our bodies what we want. Only what we want, and no one else."

Last year, Israel's Orthodox Jews were outraged at the choice of Dana International for the country's Eurovision song contest. She went on to win the title.

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