Supermodel Bella Hadid called an ‘Israel hater’ by far-right minister Ben-Gvir

Chris McGreal

The Guardian  /  August 25, 2023 

Hadid had denounced Itamar Ben-Gvir for saying Jewish settlers had more rights than Palestinians in occupied territories.

The far-right Israeli National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has called the Palestinian American supermodel Bella Hadid an “Israel hater” after she joined denunciations of his claim that Jewish settlers have more rights than Palestinians [‘Arabs’] in the occupied territories.

Ben-Gvir told Israeli television this week that freedom of movement for settlers in the West Bank outweighs the rights of Palestinians. The remarks followed two deadly attacks on Israelis in the West Bank, the latest in a series of killings by both settlers and Palestinians in the territory, known as Judea and Samaria to Israelis.

“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 [Palestinians],” Ben-Gvir said. “The right to life comes before freedom of movement.”

Ben-Gvir then addressed a well-known Palestinian Israeli television host: “Sorry, Mohammad, but that’s the reality.”

The remarks drew a swift backlash from Israelis and Palestinians who said they were further evidence that Ben-Gvir, the leader of the ultranationalist Jewish Power party who has convictions for inciting racism and supporting terrorism, is committed to a system of “Jewish supremacy” in the occupied territories.

The US state department joined the criticism, saying it strongly condemned “Ben-Gvir’s inflammatory comments” and “all racist rhetoric”.

Hadid, who was born in the US to a Palestinian father, joined the criticism with an Instagram post that included a clip of Ben-Gvir’s remarks.

“In no place, no time, especially in 2023 should one life be more valuable than another’s,” she said. “Especially simply because of their ethnicity, culture or pure hatred.”

Hadid and her sister, Gigi, who is also a supermodel, are vocal supporters of Palestinian rights whose social media posts reach tens of millions of followers.

Hadid also posted a video by the Israeli civil rights group B’Tselem, showing Israeli soldiers in the segregated West Bank city of Hebron/Al-Khalil saying Palestinians are barred from a street reserved for Jews.

“Does this remind anyone of anything?” she wrote.

Ben-Gvir, who lives in a settlement close to Hebron city centre, hit back on social media, saying he would not apologize and would say the same “another 1,000 times”. He called Hadid an “Israel hater” and accused her of posting the clip from the television interview “with the intention of making me appear racist and evil”.

“I invite you to Kiryat Arba, to see how we live here, how every day, Jews who have done nothing wrong to anyone in their lives are murdered here,” he said.

For many years, Ben-Gvir hung in his living room a portrait of Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish extremist in the anti-Palestinian Kach party who massacred 29 Palestinians at a Hebron mosque in 1994. He took it down when he joined the government.

After his remarks drew international attention, Ben-Gvir claimed that the “Israeli radical left” had “selectively” misquoted him and suggested he was only talking about restricting the rights of “terrorists who throw stones at us and kill us”.

Ben-Gvir and other far-right ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are working to greatly increase the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, apparently as a step toward full annexation of all or some of the territory.

Chris McGreal writes for Guardian US and is a former Guardian correspondent in Washington, Johannesburg and Jerusalem