Instagram stars Bella and Gigi Hadid are known for their public support of the Palestinians. But as the cool kids on social media say, you won’t believe what their dad does with an old coin
As a rule, this space usually deals with hoaxes and lies that are so old that most people already accept them as gospel and don’t know the original story (which is what we are here for). This time, we are witnessing how knowingly crafted lies gain momentum and become established as the truth, right in front of our very eyes.
Together, Gigi, Bella and their father, Mohamed, have around 200 million followers (some of them most probably overlap, but still, it’s a huge number). Since the latest round of violence erupted in Gaza, which Israel named Operation Guardian of the Walls, Gigi and Bella have published pro-Palestinian posts, are taking part in protests and writing encouraging texts. This may make some of us angry, but it is still completely legit. But their dad, Mohamed, has taken things a little further.
The doctrine developed by Mohamed, who, technically, can call himself a “native Israeli”, says: contrary to Israel’s old, familiar narrative, there used to be a country called Palestine. This Palestine was a developed country with modern cities, cultural life, sports, and tolerance for the Jewish minority, which turned out to be ungrateful. And then, according to Mohamed Hadid, in 1948 Israel suddenly conquered Palestine and obliterated every memory of it. And now, according to the narrative he is sharing with his tens of millions of followers, Israel is successfully selling the world the huge lie that there never was a Palestine, but only a British Mandate that ruled over Jews and Arabs alike, and that the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan and started a war.
To prove that he is right, Hadid senior posts old photographs and films every day. Sometimes, Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Sometimes, footage of a soccer game between Australia and Palestine (the Palestinian team is, in fact, the Jewish settlement’s team; incidentally, Hadid is missing the well-known story of those days, the one that forever defined the segmentation of soccer fan clubs in Israel, about Maccabi that took over the team and ousted Hapoel).
His greatest success, which has numerous copycats across the web, is to show the 10 mils coin, equal to ten-thousandths of a pound, issued by the British, what our granddads used to call a “grush with a hole”, and claim, “You see, it says Palestine!” The conclusion: there was a state called Palestine, and whoever argues otherwise is a liar who is gaslighting on a world level (incidentally, the coin bears the initials aleph-yod (“Eretz Yisrael”) in parentheses)).
It’s amazing, but this lie – and there is no way of knowing if it stems from ignorance or intent – has caught on. The bit about the coin is close to going viral. For example, at a pro-Israel demonstration in Miami two weeks ago, a man confronted the protesters, and he too showed a photograph of the coin and told the cameras, “You see, there used to be a State of Palestine”.
There is a lot of talk here in Israel about our failed hasbara (i.e. official PR efforts to defend Israel’s policies and points of view abroad), and about how to convince the world that we are doing the right thing. This challenge, it seems, is becoming increasingly tough when faced with an explosive combination of social media celebrities with huge exposure, international ignorance and the ease with which content is virally disseminated.
What can we do against it? That’s a subject for the next post. We have already handed out quite a few useful guides in this edition.
So for now, all we’ll say is that it’s a shame.