Showing true beauty, two pageant queens from “enemy states” posed together to promote a message of peace.
On Tuesday, 2017’s Miss Universe Israel Adar Gandelsman and Miss Universe Iraq Sarah Idan took selfies together and shared them to their respective profiles and with thousands of followers. Gandelsman captioned the Instagram post, “Get to know, this is Miss Iraq and she’s amazing.” On Facebook, she added, “With Miss Iraq, Practicing bringing world peace.”
Idan shared her sentiments on her Instagram, writing, “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.”
While Iraq is no Palestine from Israel’s perspective, there’s definitely enough tension between Gandelsman’s and Idan’s countries to make this picture awkward, even though it looked anything but.
The states have no formal diplomatic relations, which is in part because of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, when five Arab nations, including Iraq, invaded the newly independent Jewish state. Then in 1981, during Operation Opera, Israel conducted an air attack that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in Iraq. Ten years later, Iraq attacked two Israeli cities with Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War.
Since then, aggression between Iraq and Israel has subsided. And while diplomats from both countries have even shown support for each other at times, they still seem to be anything but buddies. Which is why the photo is such a big deal — Iraq is an Arab country, just like Palestine.
Idan’s followers had a lot to say about her posing with an Israeli. Some admired her move. “So amazing and so Brave. You’re an inspiration!” wrote one fan. “Peace and love everyone! We, Muslims and Jews in Israel live together very very peacefully. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.”
However, naysayers had harsh words. “If you are an honorable Arab you have to hate Israel forever. Palestine is our honor, the Arabs,” wrote one angry follower. “Miss Israel served in the Israeli Army and caused the death and displacement of hundreds of Palestinians. He who puts his hand in her hand has participated in the crime,” said another. “You dishonor all of our people that died under their occupation. You Zionist shill,” someone else commented.
After such negative attention, Idan, who now lives in the United States, according to her website, felt the need to explain herself. “I want to stress that the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries,” she wrote (in Arabic) in a later Instagram post.
She added that the photo “does not signal support for the government of Israel and does not mean I agree or accept its policies in the Arab homeland.” Idan went on to apologize “to all those who consider [the picture] harmful to the Palestinian cause.”
According to Idan, Gandelsman initiated the photo. “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.”
People were a little bit more positive about Miss Israel’s post. “Thank you for sharing this pic with the world. It shows leadership and courage, and a hope for a better tomorrow,” one follower expressed. “[P]eace between Israel and Iraq!!!!” said another. “As an Iraqi Jew I love this!!!!!” wrote a third. “You’re both beautiful — especially because you are showing what coexistence looks like!” gushed a fan. “Respect. This is why I follow beauty pageants. It is a neutral arena where differences are set aside and friendship can flourish.”
I love Sarah
I love iraq
I love world
I love adar
— Sandy youssef (@Sandy11youssef1) November 16, 2017
Even the Israeli prime minister was on board with this brave message of unity.
Miss Iraq Sarah Idan and Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman (no relation…) met at the Miss Universe beauty pageant and became friends. Miss Iraq posted this photo on her Instagram. What a great message of hope for the region. Good luck to both Sarah and Hadar. pic.twitter.com/GV9L9JW7Rg
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) November 14, 2017
People are applauding Idan for her daring move, while others are wondering if it was worth the risk. This isn’t the first time a pageant contestant has been criticized for posing with a Miss Israel. In 2015, people called for the stripping of Miss Lebanon Sally Greige’s crown after she posed for a photo with Miss Israel Doron Matalon (even though Miss Lebanon claimed she didn’t actually agree to take the photo). Amanda Hanna won Miss Lebanon Emigrant 2017, but a 2016 school trip to Israel led to the removal of her title.
According to the Times of Israel, it is illegal for Lebanese citizens to have contact with the Jewish state or Israelis.
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