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The Hadids: Palestinian-American Models Face Backlash

posted on: May 24, 2021

The Hadids: Palestinian-American Models Face Backlash
Credit: Reuters

By: Waverly Nohr/ Arab America Contributing Writer

Household names of fashion, Gigi and Bella Hadid, have been facing criticism for their stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their father, Mohammed Hadid, fled Palestine as a child, and the models’ relation to him has inexorably resulted in their staunch support for his home country. As public figures, their points of view on the recently escalated conflict have made the news at a rapid rate and expansive scale. The emergence of several photos of the sisters chanting and calling for the liberation of Palestine has brought to light the opinions of many large fashion houses on the controversial topic. Celebrity opinions of global human rights debates can sometimes come across as trivial and detached. However, the Hadids are half-Palestinian, and their platforms have the potential to influence many minds. If nothing else, their outspoken demeanors can hopefully give voices to the millions of Palestinians without one. 

What exactly have the Hadids said about the conflict? 

Bella Hadid has been the most outspoken in her family in terms of public commentary. She has shared information to her followers on Palestinian deaths due to fighting in Gaza. Her attendance at pro-Palestinian rallies and protests has been widely documented on her Instagram. After an initial wave of backlash, her story read, “Don’t trade your authenticity for approval.” Gigi has also been active on social media. Her content has mainly included reposts of information regarding human rights violations and the meaning behind being Palestinian. A statement from Gigi’s instagram read, “One cannot advocate for racial equality, LGBT and women’s rights, condemn corrupt and abusive regimes yet choose to ignore the Palestinian oppression.” Even her passive spreading of factual information and well-written account has thrown Gigi into a wave of hateful messages and criticism. 

What backlash have the sisters met since speaking out? 

Widespread rumors that Bella lost a major contract with Dior due to her support of Palestine surfaced early during the escalation of the conflict. These rumors have since been refuted, but still shed a confusing and suspicious light on Dior, one of the most historically influential fashion brands. Hearsay aside, the main argument against Hadid support for Palestine, and calls to liberate Palestine in general, is that such comments are anti-semitic. The official Twitter account of Israel made the wildly exaggerated claim that the sisters were, “advocating for the elimination of the Jewish state.” The Hadids have faced this counter-argument from Israel and others with grace and factual rebuttals. Gigi pointed out that there are Christian Palestinians, as well as Jewish Palestinians. She and Bella condemned all forms of anti-semitism and made clear that their hope for Palestinians has always been that they be granted equal rights. 

What was said about the sisters in the New York Times?

The most intense and negative reaction the Hadids have faced has been a full spread New York Times ad run by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The ad not only targeted the sisters, but also their brother’s girlfriend, popular singer Dua Lipa. The large and in-your-face ad accused the sisters of “ignorantly spreading libel.” It also labeled all three women as anti-semitic. The addition of Dua Lipa’s image to the ad was confusing, as her commentary on the conflict was significantly less involved than the Hadid’s. It included only a repost to her Instagram story of the #SaveSheikhJarrah hashtag that was trending at the time. Her inclusion in the extreme New York Times spread led her to post an impassioned statement to her social medias, affirming her anti-racist point of view and condemning all forms of hate. 

The fact that attending peaceful rallies and posting educational anti-violence graphics on social media can result in so much backlash is alarming. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is an historically tense and upsetting controversy. Although contentious, there are certain facts that can’t be disputed. Multitudes of human rights violations against Palestinians have been committed by the Israeli government. Taking a stand against civilian targeted violence should never be criticized. Condemning hate towards one group of people does not imply it should be redirected towards another one. As Palestinian-Americans and human beings, the Hadid sisters have every right to comment on issues that they feel impassioned about. Their courage to take a stand against hate and violence should be met with nothing other than applause and encouragement.

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