Israel, a primarily Jewish nation, and Lebanon, a Muslim-majority nation, have been enemies for decades because of religious conflict. Israel fought a bloody war in 2006 against Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is a Shi’a Islamist militant group and Lebanon political party, killing more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Lebanon and Israel remain in an official state of war, although border incidents are rare since the bloody war in 2006. Still, relations with Israel are frowned upon- the Lebanese risk prison if they call or travel to Israel, even if for cultural or personal reasons, and all Israeli products are banned in Lebanon.
This selfie, showing Miss Universe contestants Miss Israel, Miss Lebanon, Miss Slovenia, and Miss Japan posing together on a tour of South Florida has stirred up the Middle East pretty badly.
Once fellow Lebanese realized that Lebanon’s Saly Greige was posing with Israel’s Doron Matalon, many became angry and started calling for their country’s contestant to be stripped of her title for ‘consorting with the enemy’.
While Miss Universe contestants are usually spouting out their desire for world peace, Greige posted on her Instagram a version of the photo with Miss Israel cropped out along with a description defending herself on how the selfie ‘incident’ actually happened.
To all my supporters and Lebanese citizens, I would like to thank you indeed for your continuous support of Miss Lebanon at the Miss Universe contest… The truth behind the photo, since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss universe,I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss isreal, who tried several times to take a photo with me. I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie, and uploaded it on her social media. This is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest
Hmm… I wonder who took the selfie in the first place…
In contrast, Matalon has defended the picture by re-posting the image on her Instagram account with the message: “It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad. Too bad you can not put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighbouring country.”
It may, however, be easier for Matalon to deal with this incident because Miss Israel has not faced any obvious criticism from Israelis about the selfie, but Miss Lebanon has people calling for her to be stripped of her title, which is something that did actually happen 22 years ago back in 1993 when the then-Miss Lebanon Huda al-Turk posed with the then-Miss Israel.
Social media users are saying that the anger from some Lebanese people goes against the idea of a beauty contest promoting ‘world peace’, and this latest spat is “as ridiculous as the pageants themselves”.