Los Angeles – Miss Universe contestant Miss Israel Doron Matalon was just taking a harmless photo when she snapped and shared a group selfie that included Miss Lebanon Saly Greige in Miami on Sunday, Jan. 11.
Unforuntily, Lebanese TV station Al Jadeed didn’t see it that way.
In a image that also featured Miss Slovenia Urska Bracko and Miss Japan Keiko Tsuji, Matalon, 21, and Greige, 25, were pictured smiling together. Innocent enough, it would seem—but Israel and Lebanon have long been sworn enemies. Intended or otherwise, the photo created a strong political statement, inciting outrage from both sides.
The TV station reportedly joked that 25-year-old Greige, who lists “reading” as one of her hobbies, “should have read that Lebanon and Israel are enemies.”
According to Reuters, Israel and Lebanon are “technically at war, although the border has been largely quiet since their 2006 conflict.”
According to Miss Lebanon, Miss Israel photobombed a private selfie that was already in motion. “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,” Greige wrote on her Facebook page. “I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself; suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media.”
Matalon, on the other hand, countered via her Instagram page. “It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad,” the Israeli pageant queen captioned a screenshot of an article entitled,
“That Miss Lebanon and Miss Israel trouble once again!”
She added to Greige and the media, “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.”
On Saturday, nearly a week after the photo was taken, Greige addressed the criticism she had been facing in an update on Facebook.
“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,” she wrote in English.
“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 Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me) … I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself; suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media…this is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest.”
In a Sunday morning Facebook post of her own, 21-year-old Matalon responded to reports that she had “photobombed” Miss Lebanon in Miami.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad,” she said of Miss Lebanon’s response to her photo. “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.”
She echoed what she wrote on Facebook once again in an interview with NBC News Monday morning.
“I hope for change and I hope for peace between us, and even just for three weeks, just between me and her,” she said. “We need to remember that we represent the country and the people, not the government and not the political issues.”
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