Miss Colombia Michelle Gomez (C), crowned 2016's Miss Earth Air, raises her crown while other contestants greet her.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO)
Miss Earth Lebanon has been stripped of her title after posing for a photo with Miss Earth Israel, according to media reports.
The Lebanese competitor, Salwa Akar, took for a photo with Israeli-Arab contestant Dana Zreik, and the image has circulated on social media.
Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic-language spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted Tuesday that, after the photo, Akar "had her title revoked today in Lebanon b/c she 'dared' to take this photo w/ Miss Israel... Lebanese apartheid must be condemned."
According to the Egyptian Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, Akar's title was withdrawn after the photo of her with Zreik surfaced. On Tuesday, Akar posted on Facebook but did not mention the controversy: "My advocacy is to help people find peace and love within themselves so they can love each others and become peaceful with our mother earth," she wrote.
According to Ynet, Akar claimed that Zreik spoke to her in Arabic, and she didn't know she was Israeli. But the Lebanese pageant organizer said Zreik was wearing a sash reading Israel, and it did not accept the excuse.
The Miss Earth competition is set to take place for the 18th year running on November 3 in the Philippines. The pageant seeks to promote environmental awareness, and 89 countries are taking part this year. The participants arrived in the Philippines earlier this month to take part in several weeks of events and competitions.
Zreik, a 20-year-old native of Olesh near Netanya, told pageant organizers she had a "normal and happy childhood" and hopes one day to become a fashion designer. She also said she is proud to be "from a historically rich region. We also are very aware agriculturally and have many organic farms."
Lebanon forbids its citizens from visiting Israel or having any association with Israelis. The Miss Earth incident is not the first beauty pageant that has landed Lebanese citizens in trouble. In 2015, Miss Lebanon Sally Greige was reprimanded after appearing in a selfie with Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, at the Miss Universe pageant in Miami. After Greige claimed that Matalon ambushed her with the photo, she was allowed to keep her title.
And last year, Miss Lebanon Emigrant, Amanda Hanna
, was stripped of her title after it was revealed that she had previously visited Israel.
The Miss Earth competition did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
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