US supermodel Bella Hadid has clashed with Israel’s national security minister over his remarks about Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
During an interview with N12 News on Wednesday, Itamar Ben-Gvir expressed the view that the safety and mobility rights of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank held more weight than those of Palestinians.
The Palestinian population has persistently opposed travel restrictions, including checkpoints, imposed by Israel in the West Bank – a region where they exercise partial self-governance.
Mr Ben-Gvir, who resides in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba close to the West Bank city of Hebron, claimed that these restrictions were crucial for safeguarding his family’s security.
He said: “The privilege for my family, including my spouse and children, to travel through Judea and Samaria takes precedence over the mobility rights of Arab residents,” alluding to the West Bank by its ancient Hebrew name.
Hadid, 26, whose paternal roots are Palestinian and who has been a vocal advocate for Palestinian rights, voiced her criticism of Mr Ben-Gvir’s statement on Instagram, where she has nearly 60 million followers.
In a post shared on Thursday, she wrote: “In no circumstance, at no time, particularly in 2023, should one life be considered more valuable than another’s, particularly due to their ethnicity, culture, or unfounded animosity.”
Hadid branded an ‘opponent of Israel’
In response, Mr Ben-Gvir issued a statement on Friday labelling Hadid as an “opponent of Israel” and alleged that she selectively posted a portion of the interview on her social media to depict him unfairly as a bigot.
He later appeared to double down on his remarks, saying: “Not only do I not take back what I said, I say it again: our right to return home in peace, to wander around Judea and Samaria and to not get killed is greater than the right to freedom of movement of residents of the Palestinian Authority.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry denounced Mr Ben-Gvir’s comments on Thursday, describing them as “repugnant and prejudiced,” and contended that these remarks further underlined Israel’s system of apartheid and Jewish dominance. Israel, however, refutes any allegations of maintaining an apartheid framework over Palestinians.
Protests outside minister’s home
Following the security minister’s remarks, left-wing activists protested outside Mr Ben-Gvir’s home on Friday over the Israeli government’s efforts to overhaul the judiciary.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has renewed efforts to limit the authority of the Supreme Court, sparking an unparalleled wave of protests across the nation.
Mr Netanyahu’s government, characterised by its religious-nationalist stance, introduced the comprehensive overhaul shortly after assuming office in January.
Central to the proposed alterations are restrictions on the Supreme Court’s scope – which is bolstering the government’s influence in the appointment of judges.
Escalation of violence
The West Bank has witnessed an escalation of violence over the last 15 months, marked by frequent Israeli military operations, Palestinian street assaults, and instances of Jewish settler attacks on Palestinian communities.
Since January, hostilities have resulted in the deaths of at least 188 Palestinians and 35 individuals in Israel.
Mr Ben-Gvir, a member of Mr Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition, has a history of convictions related to support for terrorism and anti-Arab rhetoric. He claims that his views have become more balanced since entering the government, but hasn’t provided further details.
Israel seized control of the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East conflict. Despite being regarded as illegal by the majority of nations, including the United Nations, Israel has continued to expand numerous settlements, a position that Israel contests.