Last week, a post criticising Israel’s far-right national security minister was shared by Palestinian-American model Bella Hadid on Instagram, an account with 60 million followers.
The 26-year-old supermodel reprimanded Itamar Ben-Gvir for his televised remarks, which included his assertion that his rights held more significance than those of Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank.
She wrote on her Instagram story: “In no place, no time, especially in 2023 should one life be more valuable than another’s. Especially simply because of their ethnicity, culture or pure hatred.”
Predictably, Ben-Gvir immediately took to X, formally Twitter, to slam Hadid as an “Israel hater.” He also reiterated the contentious statements he previously made during an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, in which he stated: “My right, the right of my wife and my children to move around Judea and Samaria, is more important than freedom of movement for the Arabs.”
“That’s the reality. That’s the truth. My right to life comes before their right to movement,” he added.
Along with her statement expressing outrage at the controversial remarks, Bella also posted a video by the Israeli civil rights group B’Tselem, showing Israeli soldiers in the illegally occupied and segregated West Bank city of Hebron saying Palestinians are barred from a street reserved for Jews.
“Does this remind anyone of anything?” she asked.
Despite her unwavering backing for the Palestinian cause having led to the loss of career prospects and even relationships, Hadid remains steadfast in her vocal advocacy.
Even at the risk of being accused of anti-Semitism – often used by pro-Israel lobbyists to harass and intimidate activists and academics especially those excelling in their fields or who hold influential roles – the supermodel continues to repeatedly take a stand against the brutality suffered by Palestinians.
Following former US president Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, Bella, still wearing her gown from a fashion event earlier in the evening, marched alongside the protests in London proclaiming “Free Palestine” and “End Israeli Occupation.”
She also took to Instagram to denounce the controversial move in a lengthy post alongside a skyline photo of Jerusalem’s Old City, as she told her millions of followers that the announcement marked a “very, very sad day” in history. She added that seeing the “pain of the Palestinian people” following the president’s decision makes her “cry for the many many generations of Palestine.”
Expressing further solidarity with the Palestinians, she wrote: “Seeing the sadness of my father, cousins, and Palestinian family that are feeling for our Palestinian ancestors makes this even harder to write. Jerusalem is home of all religions. For this to happen, I feel, makes us take 5 steps back making it harder to live in a world of peace.”
The treatment of the Palestinian people is unfair, one-sided and should not be tolerated. I stand with Palestine.
Her father, the renowned real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, and his family were forced to leave Palestine in 1948 during the Nakba or “the Catastrophe” when Zionist militias expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians from historic Palestine and destroyed some 500 villages to make way for the creation of Israel.
At the age of 18 months, he and his family fled to Syria, losing his family home in Safad to a Jewish family. They later immigrated to the United States when he was 14 years old. Mohamed Hadid is also outspoken about embracing his Palestinian heritage as well as instilling a sense of Palestinian identity in his children.
In 2021, during Israel’s war on Gaza, Bella joined pro-Palestine protesters at a demonstration in New York City wearing a keffiyeh and waving a Palestinian flag, calling for the occupation state to cease its intense bombing, during which 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed. More than 1,900 people were wounded.
She also posted a message of support for Palestinians on her Instagram account, stating: “Future generations will look back in disbelief and wonder how we allowed the Palestinian suffering to continue for so long. A human tragedy unfolding right in front of our eyes. Politicians stutter neutral words in fear of being reprimanded, whilst the world remains silent to avoid offending the wrong people. History has taught us to speak up. You are on the right side or you are not. It’s that simple.”
May 2021 was Israel’s fourth major military aggression on the besieged Strip since the occupation state imposed a full blockade in 2007, creating a humanitarian disaster.
At the time, Bella used her Instagram platform to denounce “Israeli colonisation” and express concern about “military occupation and apartheid.” She was careful to emphasise that her stance was not rooted in religious bias or promoting hatred, writing, “I stand in solidarity with my Palestinian brothers and sisters.”
Bella’s genuine commitment and fearless determination sets her apart as her demonstration of solidarity wasn’t confined to online spaces; she took her support to the streets, standing side by side with fellow human rights advocates. In an era and industry dominated by celebrities focused on fame and reputation, her proactive solidarity as a celebrity stands out as a truly refreshing and emotionally stirring gesture.
Critiquing Israel’s discriminatory policies and its unlawful occupation poses significant challenges due to the anticipated backlash, often involving accusations of anti-Semitism. By conflating anti-Jewish remarks with anti-Israel sentiments, the Israeli government created a paradox in which Israel’s actions are beyond critique. Consequently, many celebrities often refrain from making comments and maintain their support in a straightforward manner, even in the face of the ongoing loss of Palestinian lives due to Israel’s harsh actions.
Nevertheless, Bella underscores the significance of courage and outspokenness, emphasising the need for a deeper understanding of Palestinian history.
However, taking such a bold stance has come at a personal cost for her.
Her advocacy has resulted in a full-page critical ad in the New York Times and a direct mention on Twitter from the official Israel Twitter account, both of which she discussed in a recent interview regarding her activism.
More recently, an Israeli media site rejoiced at the news that Bella is undergoing treatment for Lyme disease. With Israel’s Walla news site posting a message warning the supermodel to “think” before “trashing Israel”, after the supermodel posted a heartfelt update on her health.
Kudos to Bella Hadid for her unwavering commitment, her Instagram posts, shedding light on the Israeli occupation army’s violent incursions and standing firm. Demonstrating solidarity with the people of Palestine should not be seen as an ephemeral cause or a trend to be supported only during Israel’s major offensives when it briefly captures internet attention. The ongoing suffering of the Palestinians should be continually recognised and spotlighted until, as Bella advocates, “It’s free Palestine till Palestine is free!!!”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.