LOS ANGELES – Has the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached the pages of fashion's bible?
In 1988, Anna Wintour chose 19-year-old Israeli model Michaela Bercu to grace the cover of her first ever issue as editor-in-chief of the world’s esteemed fashion bible, Vogue. Back then, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas had just been founded and issued a covenant declaring the need for a holy war against Israel to take over region the two sides shared.
This past summer – some 26 years later – amid another brutal war between Israel and Hamas, Wintour chose model Gigi Hadid, also 19, to re-create Bercu’s iconic image for the relaunch of the magazine’s website. Although she was raised in California by her Palestinian father and Dutch "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" mom Yolanda Foster, the editors of the magazine called her a “gorgeous Palestinian-American.”
Vogue did not respond to a comment request as to whether the model selection was politically motivated, but many speculate that it is hardly a coincidence.
“Every last thing about these fashion shoots is scripted. It’s ridiculous to think the prominent Obama supporter Anna Wintour didn’t realize she was making a political statement,” Dan Gainor, VP of business and culture for the Media Research Center, told FOX411. “This was a deliberate choice. It gives Vogue a chance to quietly attack Israel and generate much-needed controversy.”
The Jewish Daily Forward observed that the publication is “using a bold fashion statement to make an even bolder statement along the lines of ‘Palestinian is the new Israeli.’”
The resemblance between the two women is indeed striking. In something of homage to that original issue, Hadid is photographed wearing a similar sweater and jeans to what Bercu wore on her cover, and she is even clutching that 1988 magazine.
Emmy-winning fashion designer David Zyla notes that the subtle political message highlights the ever-changing fashion business.
“Up until 75 years ago, the majority of models were cast to merely be a hanger to showcase clothes. Now along with the selection of clothes, accessories, hair and makeup, we see how an editor’s choice of model can add to the story telling with extraordinarily powerful results,” he said.
However, others argue that Hadid is deserving of the prime placement in her own right as a fast-emerging “it” girl having posed for Sports Illustrated, Tom Ford, Guess and Elle magazine.
“They picked Gigi Hadid because she is very hot right now as a model and as a personality,” said Harvard sociologist Dr. Hillary Friedman. “Then, because of the Israeli-Palestinian symmetry Vogue has decided to play this up. Note Hadid was born and raised in California and her mother is Dutch-born, so they just as easily could have identified her as Dutch-American. Choosing to label her ‘Palestinian-American’ was certainly deliberate.”
And Wintour is no stranger to playing politics.
Hillary Clinton has been featured extensively in the magazine over the years, and Wintour has orchestrated profiles on the likes of Laura Bush, Sarah Palin, Nancy Reagan, Michelle Obama and Clinton’s then deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. Vogue was even forced to remove and condemn its 2011 puff piece on Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad for failing to address the country’s human rights violations.
Wintour campaigned feverishly for Barack Obama ahead of both his elections, and was reportedly shortlisted for a role as a U.S ambassador abroad.
And according to former model and writer Ariane Sommer, the famous editor will likely continue putting politics on her glossy pages.
“At its best fashion, as all forms of art, goes beyond the surface and is a reflection and also a commentary on culture,” she added. “I would not be surprised if Anna Wintour, being the creatrix with the immense foresight that she is, would put in scene a photo shoot with the lovely Palestinian-American Gigi Hadid and the equally beautiful Israeli model Bar Refaeli in the near future.”
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