It’s Not Easy Being Miss Lebanon

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After the past few months of news, I have decided that I would not want to be Miss Lebanon. Happily, I am in no imminent danger of being named Miss Lebanon because (a) I’m not Lebanese, (b) I’m too old, and (c) I’m not a “Miss.”

Unlikeliness of my qualifying notwithstanding, Miss Lebanon is not a job I would want. It seems to be a position that’s not only very hard to acquire, it’s nearly impossible to retain.

Let’s take the example of Najah Ghamrawi, AKA Miss Lebanon Emigrant Australia. In January, 2017, she was stripped of her crown after police found 22 grams of meth in the car she was driving during a high-speed chase through Western Sydney. Ms. Ghamrawi was not charged with a drug offense but she was fined $1,350 AU for not wearing a seat belt and not displaying the placard that indicates her provisional driver status. One of the pageant organizers said that her behavior “is not the image we want to represent the Australian Lebanese community.”

Now that may seem perfectly reasonable. Doesn’t it make sense that pageants don’t want to be represented by beauty queens whose actions are illegal and embarrassing? Of course. But now let us consider the case of Amanda Hanna, who was stripped of the title of Miss Lebanon Emigrant 2017 after only one week. (Who is naming these pageants?)

Ms. Hanna has dual Swedish-Lebanese citizenship. As with Ms. Ghamrawi, Hanna was removed for committing a crime, though Hanna’s crime did not involve drugs or high-speed car chases. No, Ms. Hanna visited Israel using her Swedish passport for an academic trip in 2016. In a statement, The Festival of Lebanese Emigrants said, “After communicating our decision with Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism, he decided that Hanna should be stripped of her title because her visit to Israel violates our country’s laws.”

While things are pretty quiet on the Lebanese front, a state of war technically still exists between Israel and their neighbor to the north. There is a Lebanese ban on trade and cultural products from Israel, which even extended to the American-made Wonder Woman film, banned in Lebanon because of Israeli star Gal Gadot. Accordingly, Lebanon does not permit Israeli citizens to visit, nor Lebanese citizens to visit Israel. Mere contact with Israelis – even by phone – is illegal and can even land a Lebanese citizen in prison. So even if one is “Miss Lebanon Emigrant” and uses a Swedish passport, visiting Israel is a serious offense.

This is not the first time that a Miss Lebanon has run afoul of her country’s strict anti-Israel laws. In the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, Miss Lebanon Saly Greige almost lost her title after a photograph appeared of her posing with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and – you guessed it – Miss Israel Doron Matalon.

Ms. Greige denied willing participation, claiming that she had been “very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel, who tried several times to take a photo with me” but she “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.”

Looking at the photo in question, it’s unclear whether or not Miss Israel actually photobombed Miss Lebanon and the others but her reaction to the flap underscores the difference between Israel and her enemies. Miss Lebanon either had to actively avoid Miss Israel, or at least felt compelled after the fact to claim that such had been the case. Miss Israel, on the other hand, posted a statement that “It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad. Too bad you cannot 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.”

Such conflicts are not limited to beauty pageants. Remember the 2016 Olympics in Rio? The head of the Lebanese Olympic delegation was reprimanded for blocking Israeli athletes from entering a bus that the teams were supposed to share for the opening ceremony, requiring organizers to send a separate vehicle for the Israelis. Not to pick on Lebanon, a Saudi athlete forfeited a judo match rather than compete against an Israeli. Earlier, a Syrian boxer refused to participate in a qualifying match against an Israeli opponent. And an Iranian athlete from the 2012 London Olympics admitted to throwing matches in order to avoid facing Israel opponents.

All of this clearly violates the spirit of the Olympic charter, chapter 5 of which states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas.” This all seems pretty political to me! (For what it’s worth, the Miss Universe mission statement says that the organization is “built on a foundation of inclusion and continues to be a celebration of diversity.” Anti-Israel sentiment would seem to violate that spirit as well.)

This isn’t just something that Israel faces at the Miss Universe pageant and the Olympics. And World Cup soccer. And the UN. And in every aspect of life. It’s also something our Jewish students face on college campuses, where Israel advocacy is only slightly more popular than White Supremacy.

True-life case in point: a student at a certain college, who has no personal vested interest in the Middle East conflict, put on two silicone bracelets: one supporting Israel and another supporting the Palestinians. A member of the school’s Hillel club took a picture of the wrist with two bracelets and posted it with the caption “He gets it” and a “coexist” hashtag. A representative of the school’s SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) club commented on that post that they would never coexist with “oppressors.”

Search social media and you’ll find many such examples. If there’s one thing Israel knows, it’s that it’s impossible to make peace with a party that doesn’t want it. This is a lesson that those who would speak up for Israel will also learn quickly enough. As much as we would love to see Israel have peace with the Palestinians/Iran/Saudi Arabia/Lebanon/Syria/etc. etc. etc., it’s never going to happen unless the Palestinians/Iran/Saudi Arabia/Lebanon/Syria/etc. etc. etc. are also on board.

You know what? All of a sudden, Miss Lebanon isn’t the one I feel sorry for.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.