By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about this controversy: a “selfie” taken in the lead up to the Miss Universe pageant featured both Miss Israel and Miss Lebanon, as well as Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan. After the photo was posted on Facebook and Instagram, there was a huge outcry in the national media for the countries, particularly in Lebanon, about how the two would dare to take a photo with each other when their countries are still technically at war.
The picture itself is completely benign: the four pageant contestants all give a friendly smile into the camera. You would never know that two of the contestants come from countries that have been embroiled in war for years now. It’s the kind of picture you see on social media all the time that you’d look at, smile and scroll on.
The response was shocking, particularly from Lebanon. Travel between Lebanon and Israel is prohibited for
citizens of the two countries. There are even penalties available for Lebanese people who “consort with the enemy.” Many critics suggested that Miss Lebanon should lose her title, or be subject to some of these penalties.
In response to the criticism, Miss Lebanon released a statement on her Facebook that may or may not have been the truth. She claimed that Miss Israel jumped into their group while they were taking a picture, took a “selfie” and placed it on social media. It is probably just as likely that this was an attempt by Miss Lebanon to appease her critics.
For what it’s worth, the Miss Universe Organization defended the photo, saying how unfortunate it was that the picture was received negatively by the general public, when it emphasizes peace and friendship across multiple countries, particularly those from two countries that are traditionally hostile.
If we are truly on a quest for peace, then photos like the one taken with Miss Lebanon and Miss Israel should be celebrated, not demonized. A greater understanding of each other and an effort to create global friendships is to be encouraged. In this way, we can come one step closer to walking in peace with our brothers and sisters.