Miss Iraq and Miss Israel selfie strikes a nerve


As contestants for Miss Universe 2017 gather in Las Vegas, it’s no surprise many have been grabbing photo opportunities together.

However, when Miss Iraq, Sarah Eedan, posted a selfie with fellow contestant Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, they may not have realised how mixed reaction would be on social media.

Ms Gandelsman shared a similar photo on her Instagram account calling Miss Iraq “amazing”. Her post was liked nearly 3,000 times.

There are many other photos with other contestants featured on Ms Gandelsman’s Facebook page, but this one has touched hearts and nerves equally.

Ms Eedan, also spelled Idan, who grew up in Iraq and moved to the United States to study music, wrote on Facebook how honoured she was to be the first Iraqi woman in 45 years to be representing her country in the competition.

Given there are no diplomatic relations between Israel and Iraq, it was pointed out by some, including YouTuber Sabrina Bennoui, posting a photo of the two of them together was “not to everyone’s taste.”

Some in the Arab world who accuse Israel of abuses reacted angrily.

Asaad Abukhalil, a professor based in the US, tweeted: “The beauty queen of Iraq is happily posing with the beauty queen of occupation and brutality.”

But Iraqi activist @Alaa tweeted: “A photo of an Arab or Muslim with an Israeli does not reflect agreement with the policy of [Israel’s foreign ministry] of hostility towards humanity and peace issues.”

In response to the criticism, Ms Eedan issued a statement on Instagram, saying Miss Israel had approached her at a photo shoot and expressed her hope for peace between their two peoples.

“She asked if I would like to take a picture together. I told her I would be glad to help spread the message. The aim of the photo was an expression of hope for world peace.”

She went on to say the photo did not show support for Israel.

“I would like to apologise to anyone who considered the photo to be offensive to the Palestinian cause as this was not the aim behind the post, it was merely a call to peace and hope for a solution to the crisis.”

However, in Israel, the Prime Minster’s spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman praised the photo, calling it a “great message of hope for the region”.

More pride came from Armond on Twitter, who said, “Peace begins with people”.

Israeli news site, Ynet, praised Ms Gendelsman for trying to “bring hearts closer”.

The Times of Israel described the post as “an unusual display of coexistence emanating from a divided Middle East,” and Srugim News asked if Miss Iraq’s crown would be taken away.

In 2015, Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, faced calls to have her national title from 2014 taken away from her after she appeared in a Facebook photo with her Israeli counterpart, Doron Matalon.

The Miss Universe pageant, run by the organization of the same name, is one of the world’s major beauty contests. It is held in more than 190 countries worldwide and draws billions of viewers each year.

BBC