Progressive, except for Palestine
"What starts with “P” ends with “E” and is too terrifying a word for many people to so much as mention? “Palestine”, of course! Simply uttering the P-word in a vaguely sympathetic way can be enough to elicit bad faith accusations of antisemitism. The topic has become so loaded that some people seemingly prefer to pretend Palestine and Palestinians don’t exist and just ignore the issue altogether. Nothing makes liberals abandon their progressive values, or their courage, like someone mentioning Palestine.
Vogue, I’m looking at you here. The magazine recently edited a reference to Palestine out of an Instagram post on its official social media page that was dedicated to supermodel Gigi Hadid’s pledge to donate her all her Fashion Month earnings to relief efforts in Ukraine and Palestine. Last Sunday Gigi, who is half Palestinian, announced that she was giving her earnings “to aid those suffering from the war in Ukraine, as well as continuing to support those experiencing the same in Palestine. Our eyes and hearts must be open to all human injustice”. Vogue initially included the reference to Palestine in the post but removed it after it was accused by a number of pro-Israel voices, in very bad faith, of furthering antisemitism. After an outcry from people who pointed out that it is not antisemitic to support Palestinians, Vogue then amended the post a third time to put the reference back in.
This isn’t the first time that a Hadid has had their comments about Palestine erased on Instagram, by the way. Last year Bella Hadid posted a photo on Instagram of her dad’s US passport which listed his birthplace as Palestine. The social network quickly removed it. Why? According to Instagram the post violated “community guidelines on harassment or bullying” as well as regulations on “hate speech”. After Bella spoke out Instagram offered a few other explanations for it being removed, and then said “Whoops, it was a mistake!”
Like the Hadid sisters, my dad is a Palestinian refugee. Like the Hadid sisters, I’ve also found myself harassed and vilified for daring to suggest that Palestinians deserve human rights. (Unlike the Hadid sisters, alas, I am not a supermodel). As I’ve written previously, there is seemingly no acceptable way for a Palestinian to protest oppression or stand up for our rights.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is heartbreaking. But I want to be very clear that standing with Ukrainians, as we all must do, doesn’t mean ignoring injustice and oppression everywhere else. It doesn’t diminish the struggles of the Ukranian people to ask questions about double standards. It doesn’t detract or distract from what is happening in Ukraine, for example, to ask why a viral picture of a small blonde girl standing up to a solider in front of a tank was celebrated when people thought that girl was Ukrainian but treated very differently when it was pointed out that the girl was actually Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian, standing in front of an Israeli soldier.
Indeed, it is desperately important that we ask these sorts of questions. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King said. Those are not just pretty words. When you ignore international law in one area then you help weaken international law around the world. When you shrug your shoulders about oppression in one place, you help open up the doors to it in another. Solidarity is not a distraction – it is a verb."