What’s Wrong With This Selfie?

Unless you were in a cave this week or otherwise out of touch with the world, you will surely have heard or read about the great ‘selfie incident” at the Miss Universe pageant.

For the purposes of this little article, I would humbly ask the indulgence of all those who regard beauty pageants as hopelessly sexist and completely outdated. For the record, I agree. Only someone with an ego as large as Donald Trump’s could regard saving this dinosaur of an event as heroic. But again, there is no point in writing this piece if we are going to get stuck arguing about that which most of us agree on. Who needs the Miss Universe Pageant, and why it still exists, are two excellent questions, for another time.

So let us, for the moment, just accept the event for what it is, and consider the mini-tempest that it has generated in world media. It seems that a “selfie” taken by Miss Israel, (for the uninitiated into such modern technology, a selfie is a picture that you take of yourself and sometimes others using the camera on your cellphone), which pictured her, Doron Matalon, smiling alongside Miss Lebanon and two other contestants, Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan, created a great deal of trouble for Miss Lebanon in her home country.

Lebanon, home of Hezbollah and assorted other types who view Israel as a mortal enemy, considers itself­, at least in the eyes of the aforementioned parties­, to be in an unending state of war with Israel. In their eyes, Miss Lebanon, Saly Griege, committed an unpardonable sin by posing with Miss Israel. To make matters worse, Doron Matalon had the temerity to immediately upload the aforementioned selfie onto her social media outlet, thereby creating the impression that she and Griege were cavorting happily at the Miss Universe pageant, with the traditional Middle East hostilities seemingly out of place and out of mind.

Once the furor broke out in the jihadist media outlets in Lebanon, Griege speedily backtracked, claiming that Matalon had “photo-bombed” her selfie (again, for the uninitiated, to photo-bomb someone else’s picture, selfie or otherwise, is to jump into it uninvited). Griege claimed that she had been trying to take a selfie with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan, and Miss Israel had been an unwelcome intruder.

Oh, the intrigue … Can’t you just feel it?

Were in not for the fact that Lebanon, Israel, and the other Middle East players are at each other’s throats even as we speak, this whole silly episode would be mildly amusing. But they are all poised for hostilities, and they don’t need a selfie to initiate it.

Israel’s drone attack on Syria earlier this week killed (Intentionally? Not clear…) a high-ranking Iranian general along with Hezbollah operatives, and all of northern Israel is on high alert, awaiting a Hezbollah retaliatory response. Some are suggesting that the stabbing incident on a Tel Aviv bus this week was the first strike of a mounting terror campaign yet to come. Southern Lebanon is filled with Hezbollah missiles, supplied by Iran, capable of reaching Israel’s major northern population centers, and last summer’s painful campaign in Gaza is likely but a foretaste of a nastier little war yet to come.

Syria continues to massacre its own citizens, Saudi Arabia is publicly flogging and beheading its citizens, Paris is reeling from its recent terrorist attacks, Pakistani and Saudi Sunnis continue to breed jihadists bent on bringing Western civilization to its knees and what gets the world’s attention is a few women appearing to enjoy each other’s company, even though their countries are sworn enemies.


I guess it’s easier for the masses of people who are largely indifferent to the intricacies of foreign affairs to see the Arab-Israeli conflict in the simplest possible terms, and that’s why Miss Israel and Miss Lebanon’s selfie has garnered so much attention in the world press. War is hell, after all, and those two women just got caught up in it. In truth, what I see as sadly significant about that picture is that the “powers that be” in Lebanon are so mired in their hatred of Israel and the West that there is no room, absolutely no room, for even a moment of reprieve. What is genuinely surprising is that they weren’t as upset about Miss Lebanon’s show of skin later in the pageant as they were about her selfie. Maybe that too is a manifestation of being blinded by hatred. They were so busy hating that they didn’t even notice what she was or wasn’t wearing.

I sort of doubt that. But then again, who ever claimed to understand the Middle East?

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the spiritual leader of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.

About the Author
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.