Explaining Keffiyeh: Bella Hadid honours Palestinian resistance at Cannes

Half Palestinian model is standing her ground against Israel's apartheid through fashion

Entertainment Desk May 24, 2024

Supermodel Bella Hadid turned heads and sparked conversations at the Cannes Film Festival with a powerful political statement through fashion. Hadid wore a vintage dress reminiscent of the iconic keffiyeh scarf, a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, making a profound statement on one of the world's most glamorous stages.

The dress, a striking red and white chequered design with distinctive fringe, echoed the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh. Hadid completed the ensemble with red Gucci mules, gold hoop earrings, and rectangular sunglasses, balancing high fashion with a meaningful message.

Taking to Instagram, Hadid acknowledged the significance of her sartorial choice. "Free Palestine forever," she wrote, accompanying her post with the Palestinian flag emoji. She credited designers Michael Sears and Hushi Mortezaie of Michael and Hushi for the original 2001 creation.

Hadid's advocacy for Palestine is well-documented. Since the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, which has resulted in thousands of deaths, Hadid has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause. Her father, Mohamed Hadid, was born in Nazareth and has spoken about his family's displacement during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. This personal history has deeply influenced Hadid's activism and her commitment to Palestinian rights.

While Hadid acknowledges the suffering on both sides of the conflict, she emphasises the importance of protecting innocent lives and ensuring the safe return of displaced individuals, irrespective of their nationality.

A symbol of resistance 

The keffiyeh, a traditional Middle Eastern headscarf, has become a powerful symbol of Palestinian identity and resistance. Its distinctive pattern of a square border with repeating waved lines has been seen on celebrities, demonstrators, and even in political arenas globally.

The scarf’s pattern has ancient roots and varied interpretations. Some say the waves represent fishermen’s nets, the edges of olive leaves, and the heavy black lines trade routes. Despite its association with Palestine, the keffiyeh is also part of other Arab cultures. For instance, Iraq has its own version, which looks similar despite the country being known more for palm trees than olive trees.

The keffiyeh's symbolism extends beyond fashion, often carrying political weight. In recent incidents, three students in Vermont wearing keffiyehs were shot, with one, Hisham Awartani, now paralysed. Additionally, a Canadian politician was expelled from the legislature for wearing a keffiyeh. These events highlight the tensions and misconceptions surrounding the scarf.

Originally functional, the keffiyeh was used by workers and Bedouins for protection against the elements. Its adoption as a symbol of resistance and identity underscores its deep cultural significance and the resilience of those who wear it.

A global conversation

Hadid's appearance at Cannes in a keffiyeh-inspired dress is more than a fashion statement; it's a declaration of solidarity and a call for awareness. By wearing the dress, she brings global attention to the Palestinian struggle, using her platform to advocate for a just cause. Her bold choice reflects a growing trend of celebrities leveraging their visibility to highlight important social and political issues, fostering a global dialogue on peace and justice.

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