Bella’s stance - GulfToday

Bella’s stance

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Bella Hadid

Palestinian-Dutch-US supermodel Bella Hadid has triumphed in her verbal skirmish with Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. She triumphed by adopting a moral position in response to his statement on why Israel has installed 645 roadblocks and check points in the West Bank obstructing Palestinian freedom of movement and conducts daily or nightly military raids into Palestinian towns and villages.

Last week he told Israeli television channel 12 that Israel had to intensify security measures in the occupied West Bank to prevent attacks on Israel’s colonists who are illegal under international law. A resident of the West Bank colony of Kiryat Arba, he stated, “My right, and my wife’s and my children’s rights, to get around on the roads in Judea and Samaria, is more important than the right to movement for Arabs.” He added, That’s the reality. That’s the truth. My right to life comes before their right to movement.”

The “reality” he has ignored is that since January, at least 188 Palestinians and 33 Israelis and two visitors to Israel have been killed. The imbalance is stunning and horrific.

Hadid condemned his remarks on Instagram: “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.” She posted a video from Israeli human rights group B’Tslem showing an Israeli soldier denying a Palestinian resident of al-Khalil (Hebron) to enter a road reserved for Jews. “Does this remind us of anything?“ Hadid asked.

She hinted at but did not state, “South Africa” which practiced “apartheid,” the policy of unequal, racist separation between minority whites of European origin and the black African native majority. It is significant that South Africa legalised this policy in 1948, the year Israel was established by war. It drove half the 1.3 million Palestinians from their homes and imposed martial law on the 150,000 Palestinians who dared to remain in the 78 per cent of their country occupied by Israel. While aborted in South Africa and declared illegal by the UN, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and UN officials, Israel has adopted apartheid to preserve Jewish supremacy over Palestinians who now outnumber Israeli Jews in geographic Palestine.

An unidentified Israeli official called Ben Gvir’s remarks “a public relations disaster” while Prime Minister Netanyahu attempted to deflect criticism by stressing the need to maintain security for “both sides”— the 670,000 Israeli colonists planted in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the three million Palestinian natives. The US and European Union condemned Ben Gvir’s comments.

He enjoys no equivalence in the public relations clout of Bella Hadid, who has 60 million Instagram followers. Born in Washington, DC, in 1996, Hadid — also named Khairiah after her grandmother — was raised in Santa Barbara and Beverly Hills, California. Her billionaire father Mohammed Hadid, who was born in Nazareth, is a Palestinian-Jordanian property developer and her mother Yolanda Hadid is a former Dutch model. Bella Hadid grew up on a ranch with horses, regarded her horse as her best friend, and continues to ride. She began modelling at 16 and has walked the runways of the globe’s great and grand fashion houses — Chanel, Versace, Dior, and Givenchy — and has appeared on the covers of the most fashionable fashion magazines, notably in five language editions of Vogue. She has won numerous awards and appeared in films. She has repeatedly courted controversy by saying what she thinks. She commented on Donald Trump’s ban on entry to the US for Muslims from six countries by saying this issue is “very close to my sister and brother and me as [their] dad was a refugee when he first came to [the US].” She also referred to her faith when she said, her father “was always very religious, and he always prayed with us. I am proud to be a Muslim.”

She has used her status as a star and cult figure to raise awareness of injustice and secure money for charities and causes, including UNRWA, the agency which cares for 5.7 million Palestinian refugees. In 2017, she joined a London protest against Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Her motto is “all people deserve respect” whatever their ethnicities.

When Bella Hadid was named by Time magazine one of the 100 most influential people of 2023, the author of the news piece Christy Turlington Burns wrote, “Plato believed that our world’s beauty and goodness were inherently intertwined. Bella Hadid is as good as she is beautiful.” Burns added, “Within this new generation that has limitless potential to create positive change in the world, Bella holds unique power. I am rooting for her, for the possibilities that lie ahead, and for all that is good and beautiful.”

Hadid is famous while Ben Gvir is infamous. He is widely reviled in Israel and abroad. He was born in 1976 to an Iraqi Jewish father and a Kurdish Jewish mother in the town of Mevaseret Zion on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. As a teenager he became right-wing and religious and joined the extremist Kach movement, which was outlawed in Israel and the US. He was rejected by the Israeli military because of his rightist views. He is a disciple of Kiryat Arba predecessor Baruch Goldstein, a US-Israeli who murdered 29 Palestinians in al-Khalil mosque in 1994. In 1995, Ben Gvir threatened to “get” Israeli Premier Yitzak Rabin for endorsing the Oslo Accord which, if implemented as expected, would have led to the emergence of a Palestinian state. In November 1995, Rabin was assassinated by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir at a Tel Aviv rally supporting the Oslo Accord.

Ben Gvir was indicted for racist crimes 53 times but escaped prosecution until 2007 when he was convicted of racist incitement. In 2012 he formed the Otzma Yehudit, the Jewish Power party. Although he studied law, the Israeli bar association initially blocked him from sitting the bar exam because of his criminal record but eventually lifted the ban and allowed him to practice law. The Israeli liberal daily Haaretz wrote that his clients make up a “’Who’s Who’ of suspects in Jewish terror cases and hate crimes.”

Photo: TNS

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