The dark truth behind ‘that’ Miss Universe selfie

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Beauties and the beast of belligerence.

The trouble started last week, when this year’s Miss Israel Doron Matalon posted a photo on Instagram featuring herself alongside Saly Griege, this year’s Miss Lebanon, and her fellow contestants from Japan and Slovenia.

A selfie taken by a group of Miss Universe contestants isn’t normally something that makes international news, but a recent photo showing Miss Israel posing alongside a smiling Miss Lebanon has bucked the trend.A Lebanese minister said he planned to launch an investigation Monday into how Miss Lebanon ended up being photographed with Miss Israel on the sidelines of the upcoming Miss Universe pageant. After Matalon uploaded the photo on Jan. 11 – which also included Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan – to her Instagram account, a Lebanese television station, Al Jadeed, chastised Greige for appearing in the pic. In 1993, the government disqualified its Miss Universe representative after Agence France-Presse moved a photo of her smiling arm-in-arm with her Israeli competitor. Miss Lebanon had had her photograph taken with Miss Switzerland, Miss Bolivia, Miss Panama, Miss Kosovo, Miss Lithuania, Miss Nicaragua, Miss Croatia, Miss Italy, Miss Malaysia, Miss Georgia and many, many other Misses.

Social media users soon noticed that Lebanon’s Saly Greige was standing next to her, which led to some angy Lebanese folk calling for their country’s contestant to be stripped of her title for ‘consorting with the enemy’. Greige asserted that Matalon had tried “several times” to take a picture with her, writing on Instagram Sunday, “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, [sic] 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,” Greige wrote. Since Greige says one of her hobbies is reading, she should have known Lebanon and Israel are enemies, sniped one critic on Lebanese TV, according to NBC. According to Lebanon’s Daily Star, the hashtag ‘two words for Miss Lebanon’ was trending on Twitter this weekend, as thousands of Lebanese people fumed against Greige for blatantly fraternising with Matalon.

Matalon responded to the controversy herself on Sunday, saying it made her ‘sad’, reported AFP. “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.”

Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000, but the two countries are still technically at war and their armies occasionally skirmish along the UN-designated withdrawal line. Israel fought a bloody war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah in 2006, which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers. The Daily Star quoted a Twitter user who posted, “You could have avoided mingling with the Israeli contestant like previous Lebanese contestants have done throughout the years.

Of course, it might be true, but that’s not the point – it seems incredibly sad that she has to try and explain why she’s smiling in an image with a fellow contestant. And if you were harassed like you say, you could have at least avoided the huge smile [we see] on your face.” The Times of Israel noted that Matalon recently wrapped up her military service in the Israel Defense Forces where she held the rank of sergeant. But as, The Telegraph’s Middle East correspondent Richard Spencer explains: “Although it’s childish of Lebanon, the problem isn’t that she posed with an Israeli person, but someone who represents the state of Israel as an entity.

It’s not quite as childish as everyone’s making out.” He believes it’s because Matalon is essentially an official ambassador of Israel on a global stage, albeit a glorified beauty contest, that there has been so much anger about the photograph, which points to the bigger picture of how relations stand between Israel and Lebanon. 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 Telegraph’s chief foreign correspondent David Blair explains that it’s because Israelis wouldn’t find the selfie particularly controversial: “In Israel people might think, well done Miss Israel, because it helps support the Israeli view which is that the fundamental cause of the conflict is the Arab world won’t accept them. George Asseily, chairman of the Centre for Lebanese Studies, says: “Lebanon has a problem with Israel and Israel couldn’t care less. “All they want is to grab more land around Israel. In 2006 there was lots of destruction and since then there’s been no improvement in the relationship, because Israel still occupies part of the south and they’re refusing to withdraw although this is Lebanese territory.” Of course Israel would argue otherwise, and perhaps suggest that Lebanon is not the liberal country it wants to be seen as, even though it has provocative pop stars such as Haifa Wehbe, and a virbrant nightclub scene in Beirut where girls dress similarly to those in the West.

Only recently, Lebanese porn star Mia Khalifa, 25, has been receiving horrific abuse and death threats from Muslims in her country, with people writing comments such as: “Ur head will be cut soon inshallah”. As with Miss Lebanon, most of the abuse has taken place over social media – but while Greige has tried to placate her critics, Khalifa fired back at hers: “Doesn’t the Middle East have more important things to worry about besides me?

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