Miss Lebanon distances herself from photo with Miss Israel

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(CNN) — Miss Lebanon Saly Greige is distancing herself from a photo of her and Miss Israel Doron Matalon that’s causing an online uproar.

The picture appeared on Matalon’s Instagram feed on January 11. It shows Matalon smiling with Greige, Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan in Miami, where the Miss Universe pageant will take place on Wednesday.

“Good morning from us!” reads the caption.

The image ignited a wide-ranging debate in the comments of the picture about the ongoing conflict between Israel and much of the Arab world.

Greige posted a statement on her Facebook page Saturday to explain what she called “the truth behind the photo.”

From the start of pageant preparations, Greige said, she was “very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel.”

As she explains it, she was posing for a photo with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia when “suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media,” she said.

“This is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest.”

Miss Universe organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Matalon weighed in Sunday after a website posted an article with the headline “Miss Lebanon in Trouble.” She took a screenshot of the article and captioned it, “It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad,” and posted it on her social media accounts.

“Too bad you can not 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.”

Comments on her original photo echoed the sentiment.

“As a Lebanese, I really don’t see anything wrong with this picture. It’s time we promote peace over violence as the latter has gotten us no where. And if you really wanna discuss politics, it surely shouldn’t be under the picture of 4 beautiful ladies who have nothing to do with your b******t. Good luck ladies!”

It’s not the first time beauty pageants have been caught up in political controversy. According to multiple news reports, former Miss Lebanon Christina Sawaya pulled out of Miss Universe 2002 because she did not want to share the stage with Miss Israel amid tensions in the Middle East.

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