Israel and Lebanon do not have the best of relations on the world stage. For well over 60 years, the two nations have fought and attacked each other back and forth, leaving any sort of relationship a little salty.
That’s where this story comes in to play, the latest in a long line of proxy battles that take place in the media. And once again it involves the Miss Universe pageant, thanks to the photo above. It features Miss Israel Doron Matalon taking a selfie next to Miss Lebanon Saly Greige and two other contestants from Slovenia and Japan. The whole thing seems innocent enough, but it turns out that the Lebanese government isn’t pleased. From The New York Post:
In 1993, the country stripped its Miss Lebanon, Ghada al-Turk, of her title after Agence France Press distributed a photo of her smiling arm-in-arm with her Israeli contender.
This time around, the Lebanese government has vowed to “launch an investigation” and will decide this week whether the offensive photo will get her crown snapped, too.
The uproar has been enough to force Greige to take to her own Instagram page, uploaded a cropped version of the photo and claiming it was a photobomb (phrasing) that Miss Israel sprang at the last second:
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.
She concludes with, “this is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest,” because all priorities are clearly in order. Her agent was also behind this photobomb story, claiming that Matalon was a “stealthy saboteur” who took the photo purposefully.
On the one hand, you can understand the feelings of the Lebanese government. I think I’d have a hard time swallowing an image of two smiling girls who are representatives of countries that are mortal enemies. But Miss Israel didn’t drive a tank across the border and Miss Lebanon didn’t launch a rocket into Tel Aviv. It seems misplaced and Matalon echoed these sentiments on Facebook:
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 neighboring country
Miss Universe also released their own official statement on the situation, driving the positive messages home:
In a statement, the Miss Universe Organization said “it is unfortunate to know a photo of four smiling women from different parts of the world, working together at an event, could be misconstrued as anything other than what it is, a celebration of universal friendship.” (via)
Who knows what will come of this. Hopefully it doesn’t end in punishment for Greige, or worse start another fight. It’d look worse than The Interview starting World War III if a photographed caused two nations to launch a full scale assault at each other.