The intense animosity between Israel and its Arab neighbors was put into sharp relief last week when a simple selfie at a beauty pageant triggered a full fledged criminal investigation. Miss Israel Doron Matalon (first from left) snapped a selfie at the pageant and posted it. Someone noticed that the smiling contestant next to her was Saly Griege, this year’s Miss Lebanon (second from left). The reaction was seismic and sad. It appears that fraternization, like beauty, remains in the eye of the beholder.
People around the Muslim world reacted in outrage that Griege would associate with an Israeli, even as part of an international competition. Lebanon bans its citizens from fraternizing with Israelis and Griege has been put under investigation. In 1993, the government actually disqualified its Miss Universe contestants for being shown arm-in-arm with her Israeli contestant.
Griege has responded by denouncing Matalon and saying that she was effectively set up. She posted a statement that “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.”
She does not appear particularly surprised in the photo. Indeed, the photo shows contestants enjoying what should be a moment of civility and celebration in making it to the event. She may have been surprised by the picture, though some have said that she was clearly interacting with Matalon. In my view, she was likely being polite and being a proper cultural ambassador for her country in the moment of fun. The very notion that this picture could be a criminal act shows how hatred can mutate into officially sanctioned blind rage.
For her part, Matalon said that the hoopla simply left her “sad” and added that it is “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 [sic] country.”
It sounds like the law is unlikely to result in an actual criminal sanction as opposed to a disqualification if Griege is found guilty. That is still a ridiculous penalty for a selfie.