Gigi Hadid Opens Our Eyes to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Gigi Hadid, Model of the Moment, Pays Tribute to Anna Wintour’s First Vogue Cover (Photo by Sean Thomas)

The decision to feature 19-year-old Palestinian-American fashion model Jelena Noura (Gigi) Hadid on the September 2014 cover of Vogue, has made headlines around the world—especially in the Middle East.

While Gigi Hadid has been named one of 12 rookies in Sports illustrated annual issue in 2014, recognized as the next Kate Upton, the media is hung up on her Palestinian-American origin.

Journalists are now asking, has the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached the cover of Vogue? “Is Palestinian the new Israeli?” reads one headline. “Is the Israel-Palestinian conflict being fought on the cover of Vogue?

In 1988, Anna Wintour put 19-year-old Israeli model Michaela Bercu’s face on the cover of her first issue as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue. At that point in time, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas had just been founded and issued a covenant declaring a holy war against Israel.

For Bercu, some of the clothes she was to model did not fit and therefore she had to wear her own stonewashed jeans with the Christian Lacroix top with which she was provided. In 1988, high street-style and high fashion never mixed and, thus, the outfit was revolutionary. The image itself was taken from out on the street, as opposed to the typical formal style. With it, Wintour distinguished herself as a pioneer of fashion and the image has carried significance since.

Now, 26 years later, amid the perpetuating costs of conflict in the Israeli-Palestinian region, Wintour has selected Gigi Hadid to meticulously recreate Bercu’s iconic image for the relaunch of Vogue.com.

Hadid, however, is an American girl born and brought up in California. She was raised there by her property mogul Palestinian father, Mohammed Hadid, and Dutch “Real Housewife of Beverly Hills” mother, Yolanda Foster. But Hadid’s Palestinian heritage is highlighted in Vogue’s brief description of the model accompanying her photograph.

Gigi Hadid is also pictured holding a copy of the original magazine with Bercu on the cover, and the similarities of the two women are uncanny. Hadid is dressed in a bedazzled, black sweater redolent of the Christian Lacroix top that Bercu wore, with stone-washed jeans and the same wavy blonde tresses—and she, too, is photographed in the street.

US Vogue November 1988 cover featuring Michaela Bercu (Photo by Courtesy)

US Vogue November 1988 cover featuring Michaela Bercu (Photo by Courtesy)

Perhaps Wintour’s decision to use a Palestinian-American model for the reproduction of an iconic cover of an Israeli model means something in this time of conflict. Fashion is a social phenomenon with a distinct sociological voice. It is the palpable expression and reflection of change against a backdrop of order in the public realm. For that reason, fashion is inevitably political.

Or perhaps Wintour was, in fact, making a political point—but one that doesn’t pick sides. She has shown us that the only real thing separating Hadid and Bercu are their nationalities; other than that, they’re just people—two beautiful women with the same beautiful smile, who look like they could be identical twin sisters.

Or maybe it’s just that—the point of the cover was to reproduce the original, and Hadid was a perfect look-alike for it. She’s also an emerging superstar having recently posed almost nude in Tom Ford’s “Velvet Orchid” fragrance campaign—a campaign in which nobody took notice of her nationality.

While Vogue has thus far declined to speak on the matter, and we might never know what propelled Wintour’s decision, perhaps we should let this one sit and force us to think about the futility of war. Maybe the “enemy” is someone just like us.