Israel far-right minister spars with supermodel Hadid over Palestinian rights

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s far-right national security minister on Friday sparred with U.S. supermodel Bella Hadid over his comments this week that Palestinians condemned as racist.

In an interview with N12 News on Wednesday, Itamar Ben-Gvir said that the right to life and movement for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank trumped the right to movement for Palestinians.

Palestinians have long railed against travel restrictions, including checkpoints, imposed on them by Israel in the West Bank, an area where they exercise limited self-rule and which they seek as part of a future state.

Ben-Gvir, who lives in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba near the West Bank city of Hebron, said in the interview the curbs were needed to protect his family’s security.

“My right, my wife’s right, my children’s right to travel on the roads of Judea and Samaria is more important than the right to movement for Arabs,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical Hebrew name.

Supermodel Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian and who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, criticised Ben-Gvir’s comment on Instagram, where she has close to 60 million followers.

“In no place, no time, especially in 2023 should one life be more valuable than another’s. Especially simply because of their ethnicity, culture or pure hatred,” she wrote in a post on Thursday.

Ben-Gvir responded in a statement on Friday calling Hadid an “Israel hater” and said she had shared only a segment of the interview on her social media account in order to portray him as a racist.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Thursday condemned Ben-Gvir’s remark as “racist and heinous” and said it “only confirms Israel’s apartheid regime of Jewish supremacy.”

Israel rejects any suggestions it maintains an apartheid system over Palestinians.

Violence in the West Bank has surged over the past 15 months, with frequent Israeli military raids, Palestinian street attacks and Jewish settler assaults on Palestinian villages. Since January, at least 188 Palestinians and 35 people in Israel have been killed in hostilities.

Ben-Gvir, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition, has past convictions of support for terrorism and anti-Arab incitement. He says his views have become more moderate since joining the government, without going into further detail.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. It has continued to expand dozens of settlements that are deemed illegal by the United Nations and most countries, a view Israel disputes.

(Reporting by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Andrew Heavens)