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Historian Bella Hadid Makes a Comical Mistake

Bella Hadid, the Palestinian-American model, a master of the catwalk’s mandatory swirl-and-twirl, gets an A for her chilly good looks, but I’m afraid that, not for the first time, she has flunked History. She recently posted a photo on Instagram of a soccer team, identified as “Palestine – 1939,” which was apparently playing against an Australian team. She tweeted “so cool” in reference to what she assumed was a team of Palestinian Arabs. “See,” she was signaling, “we Palestinians had our own soccer team as far back as 1939.” The truth turned out to be quite otherwise, and correcting her mistake gives us a chance to discuss the words “Palestine” and “Palestinian” as they once were applied to Jews, and as they were then appropriated by the Arabs. For ignorant Bella Hadid turned out to be praising – “so cool” – a team consisting entirely of Palestinian Jews, and who wore their identification on their jerseys.

The story of her comical misidentification is here: “Bella Hadid Post on 1939 ‘Palestine’ Soccer Team Shows Jewish, Pre-State Team, Notes Pro-Israel Influencer,” by Shiryn Ghermezian, Algemeiner, June 7, 2021:

A pro-Israel activist on Twitter noted on Monday that the Palestinian-American model and prominent Israel critic Bella Hadid seemingly drew attention to an all-Jewish, pre-state soccer team in a recent Instagram post.

Hadid, 24, posted on her Instagram Stories a photo of the British Mandate of Palestine soccer team that played against Australia in 1939. The photo said “Palestine vs Australia 1939” and the model commented on the photo saying “So cool” along with a heart emoji.

A YouTube video of the 1939 match in Australia showed that sports broadcasters also referred to the team as “Palestine,” referring to the territory governed by the United Kingdom that preceded the 1948 birth of the State of Israel.

Hadid often sashays down the runways of the decadent West in the skimpiest of outfits. Were she to wear them, say, in Afghanistan or Iran or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, or a few dozen other Muslim countries, she might well get her arrested by the authorities, or beaten by a male relative for her “disobedience,” or even, were such Defenders of the Faith as the Islamic State or the Taliban involved, possibly killed. I wonder if that possibility has ever occurred to her. She has never remarked on the mistreatment of women in Islam. Pure ignorance, or a desire to defend the faith? And what would the world’s Muslims make of Bella Hadid’s recent cri de coeur in an interview in Glamour: “I’m really proud to be a woman. I love that women can be feminine but also powerful. You know, free the nipple!” Think of the effect of that on Ayatollah Khamenei, or King Salman, or Yahya Sinwar.

In response to the photo, Israeli-Arab activist Yoseph Haddad explained in a video uploaded onto Twitter that the team was Maccabi Tel Aviv, representing the British Mandate of Palestine. The team was comprised of all Jewish athletes and they had Hebrew writing on their jerseys, which can be seen in the photo shared by Hadid as well as a group photo of the team posted on Twitter.

Apparently Bella Hadid, though delighted to be the cynosure of all leering eyes, has a problem about looking at others. She failed to notice, in the photo she posted and endorsed with a smiley emoji and that coolly laconic “so cool,” that the soccer players of “Palestine” she was celebrating as Palestinian Arabs all had Hebrew writing on their jerseys.

According to Ari Ingel, director of the entertainment organization Creative Community for Peace, the team had a tradition of playing three anthems before each match: Britain’s “God Save the King,” what became Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” and the opposing team’s national anthem. The soccer squad also had a blue and white flag that featured a large yellow Star of David in the center.

Haddad further explained that if Hadid thought she was featuring the British Mandate of Palestine’s national Palestinian team in her Instagram post, it should be noted that the team had a logo that said in Hebrew “the land of Israel.”

The logo that said “the Land of Israel,” the playing of the anthem Hatikvah, the soccer team’s blue-and-white flag with a Star of David, the Hebrew words on the jerseys – take that all in, Bella, figure out what it must mean, and I’ll let you in on a little history. The toponym “Palestine” was put in place by the Romans in 135 A.D., after they had crushed the Bar Kochba revolt, in a transparent attempt to sever the Jewish connection to the land by replacing the place name “Judea” with “Syria Palaestina” (“Palestinian Syria”), which soon was shortened to “Palestine.” When Jews began to return to their ancient homeland in the second half of the 19th century, they were often called, and called themselves, “Palestinians.” The Arabs in the area did not use that term to self-identify, did not think of themselves, as “Palestinians.” They were simply Arabs.

Though there had apparently been a lone reference to the local Arabs as “Palestinians” in 1964, it wasn’t until 1967, after the Six-Day War, that the “Palestinian people” can be said to have truly been invented, and the campaign to promote that identity really took off. That “Palestinian” identity was deliberately promoted so that the Arab gang-up on Israel could be represented to the world as a struggle of a small indigenous people – the Palestinians – to hold onto their land, land that they had possessed for centuries and that Jews, flooding in from Europe, were trying to take from them. The leader of the Palestinian terror group As Saiqa, Zuheir Mohsen, famously commented on the genesis of the “Palestinian people” in an interview he gave in 1970 to the Dutch newspaper Trouw:

The Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons.

No one in 1939 would have called the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine “Palestinians.” They were, and remained well into the 1960s, “Arabs.” That’s what they called themselves; that’s what other Arabs called them. Both those who left Mandatory Palestine before May 14, 1948, when Israel declared its independence, and five Arab armies invaded, and those who left during the fighting, were known as “Arab refugees.” It was only after the Six-Day War that they became “Palestinian refugees.”

Which brings us back to Bella Hadid, and her misplaced enthusiasm – “so cool” – for a team of “Palestinians,” that is, Jews whom she thought were Arabs – in 1939. Now that she has been publicly corrected, does she still find that team of “Palestinians” – the Jewish soccer players of Maccabi Tel Aviv — worthy of her emoji, deserving of her “so cool”? Or will she silently take down her Instagram post and comment, now that they are being held up for ridicule?

There’s a French saying that applies here: “Sois-belle et tais-toi.” This means: “Be beautiful, and shut up.” Good advice, I think, for Bella Hadid.

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