Selfie Spat Over Miss Israel, Lebanon
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Selfie Spat Over Miss Israel, Lebanon

Miss Universe pageant turns ugly when politics get involved.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

When can beauty pageants turn ugly? When Middle East politics get involved.

A selfie photograph featuring Miss Israel and Miss Lebanon smiling side by side ignited a raging debate between Israel and much of the Arab world over the weekend.

The picture, which appeared on Miss Israel Doron Matalon’s Instagram feed on January 11, showed Miss Lebanon Saly Greige along with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan smiling with the caption “Good morning from us!” The four contestants were together in Miami, preparing for the Miss Universe pageant Wednesday.

Miss Lebanon has since denied deliberately taking the selfie with Miss Israel. In a Facebook post posted on Saturday, Greige said she was posing for a photo with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia when “suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media.”

“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 Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me),” Greige wrote.

Responding on Sunday, Matalon took to Facebook saying that while the incident didn’t surprise her, it “still makes me sad.”

"Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game," she wrote, even for the three-week competition, an event she called "an experience of a lifetime [where] we can meet girls from around the world and from neighboring countr[ies]."

This is not the first time beauty pageants have been caught up in political controversy. According to multiple news reports, former Miss Lebanon Christina Sawaya pulled out of Miss Universe 2002 because she did not want to share the stage with Miss Israel.

hannah@jewishweek.org

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