Ukraine is not Palestine, no matter what celebrities say - opinion

Perhaps the best takedown of Gigi Hadid's reprehensible linkage comes from Noa Tishby.

 ‘TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE’: Supermodel Gigi Hadid’s post equating the Ukranians’ plight with that of the Palestinians.  (photo credit: INSTAGRAM)
‘TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE’: Supermodel Gigi Hadid’s post equating the Ukranians’ plight with that of the Palestinians.
(photo credit: INSTAGRAM)

It was bound to happen, but it’s still shocking.

Gigi Hadid is a supermodel whose curves I cannot seem to excise from my social media feed. Hadid might be competent walking down the runway, but when it comes to expressing her views on international affairs, she’s in way over her lingerie.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine was just two weeks old, Hadid posted to Instagram, “I am pledging to donate my earnings from the Fall 2022 [fashion month] shows to aid those suffering from the war in Ukraine, as well as continuing to support those experiencing the same in Palestine.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Hadid then concludes: “HANDS OFF UKRAINE, HANDS OFF PALESTINE. PEACE. PEACE. PEACE.”

Hadid has over 70 million followers on Instagram, and this particular post garnered some three million likes.

 A view shows buildings damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 19, 2022 (credit: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS) A view shows buildings damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 19, 2022 (credit: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

With the war in Ukraine generating tragic new headlines on a near hourly basis, do we really need a not-so-super supermodel to hijack the world’s most urgent news item to falsely accuse Israelis of doing to the Palestinians what the Russians are doing to the Ukrainians?

The backlash came quickly.

“Hadid’s recent Instagram post trivializes the plight and pain of the Ukrainians while also endangering the Jewish people by spreading defamatory accusations and vilifying Israel,” noted watchdog group StopAntisemitism.

“When Israel is painted as oppressive, Jews all over the world pay the price. Numbers don’t lie: Anti-Israel messaging leads directly to antisemitic attacks globally,” the pro-Israel Hasbara Fellows Canada tweeted.

“It is totally irresponsible... to publish a quote comparing Russian actions in Ukraine with Israel. As a Jewish woman, I am appalled and scared,” wrote an (ex?) Hadid follower.

How it could be “the same” in Ukraine as in Palestine? asked a confused reader. “Ukraine doesn’t threaten to erase Russia off the map and then shoot 4,500 rockets at it,” as Palestinian terrorists did to Israel during the last Israel-Gaza war.

There’s a lot I’d like to say about the war in Ukraine, but I’m no armchair military expert. I do have opinions when my country and my people are being singled out – again – through the convenience of antisemitism disguised as woke anti-Zionism and using an unrelated atrocity as a way of further poking the Jews in our collective kishkes.

Hadid is, sadly, not alone.

It infuriates me, for example, that some of my favorite musicians – including, most recently, former Genesis front man Peter Gabriel – would sign an open letter tarring Israel as a “settler-colonialist” society. I already gave up on Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, but Gabriel is one of my lifelong musical heroes.

It’s insulting when protesters in Ferguson link the killing of Michael Brown with Israel/Palestine, waving Palestinian flags at rallies, while insisting that, since some US police staff have trained with Israeli police and military units as part of a program of cooperative learning exchanges, it’s Israel that’s actually guilty of murdering people of color in the United States.

It’s maddening when organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace state that the only reason the Israeli government is taking in Ukrainian refugees is to “settle” them “on land it illegally occupies [in order to] prevent seven million Palestinian refugees from returning... Israel is giving Jewish Ukrainians citizenship not out of kindness and generosity, but rather to cement a Jewish demographic majority in Palestine.”

WHILE THERE’S no shortage of outrage, I want to return to our fashionable friend Hadid. Perhaps the best takedown of her reprehensible linkage comes from Noa Tishby, the Israeli actress who transformed herself from soap opera hottie to hasbara (public diplomacy) honcho after moving to Los Angeles some 20 years ago.

Tishby’s main claim to fame (after her local star turn in Ramat Aviv Gimel) was selling to HBO the show that would become the hit TV series In Treatment. She’s worked as a producer and a connector in Hollywood ever since.

But Tishby never lost sight of her roots, and lately she’s also become a passionate defender of her homeland. Her book, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, is a brilliant primer written in the kind of colloquial casualness that appeals to casual readers.

In 2011, Tishby founded Act for Israel. She’s brought professionals to the region to see what’s really going on “beyond the conflict,” has spoken in front of the United Nations several times, and continues to act in TV and movies, although she admits that advocacy is now her true calling.

In her most recent Facebook video, Tishby doesn’t pull any punches. Here’s a lightly edited version of her rebuttal to Hadid’s screed.

“I can’t believe I actually have to say this, but let’s be clear. Ukraine is not Palestine and Israel is not Russia. Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign democracy, in order to place it under Russian influence.

“And yet supermodels like Gigi Hadid blatantly make this false and dangerous equivalency, reporting it as fact. By trying to co-opt the war in Ukraine, one which has nothing to do with Israel, people like Gigi Hadid not only harm the real victims, the people of Ukraine, they help flame anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments all over the world.

“If you want to help the people of Ukraine, stop hijacking their horrific war. Stop bringing the only Jewish state into your false activism. This war is caused by one man and one man only. Stop lying about it. Stop bringing Israel into it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you, Noa Tishby. Now go out and buy her book. Or better yet, order an extra copy and have it express-mailed directly to Gigi Hadid. ■

The writer’s book, Totaled: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, is available on Amazon and other online booksellers. brianblum.com