I learn that the American-Palestinian model Bella Hadid, well-known, among other things, for her anti-Israel social media activism, has been named as the new face of Swarovski.
Those unfamiliar with the brand might recognise its plinky-plonky, ever so twee, glass miniature figures and cutesy jewellery, much of it destined to become dust magnets in teenage girls’ bedrooms and so, in my opinion, aimed at monetising from those with more disposable income than taste.
So basically I don’t care if Bella Hadid becomes synonymous with this brand becauseI wouldn’t go near it anyway. But in a sort of “do me a favour” moment, the Israeli importer and owner of Swarovski stores in Israel has put out a ponderous statement announcing that it is “entirely against” the appointment of Bella Hadid and “will not allow Bella Hadid to take part in advertising the brand in Israel and is working hard to get her replaced”.
Oh, good grief. If she weren’t an Israel-hater before, is this likely to improve things? Much better, in my view, to ignore Hadid’s appointment. If it then affects sales, then, and only then, would Swarovski Israel have something concrete to put before the company’s main board.
I have been thinking about general Israel hatred and antisemitism a lot recently, not least because of the febrile last few weeks. We have passed through “Next Year in Jerusalem”, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s remembrance day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror), a distressing number of murders of Israelis and, most cynical of all, the Russian foreign minister’s remarks about Jews and Nazis, followed by a presumably fingers crossed behind his back “apology” from Putin to Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Speaking on an Italian TV programme, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said, unchallenged by the presenter: “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. [That Zelensky is Jewish] means absolutely nothing. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.” He was responding to a question on how Russia could claim that it was fighting to “de-Nazify” Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself Jewish.
There was understandable fury in Israel at such comments, but anyone who thinks Lavrov said such things without the go-ahead from Putin is deluding themselves. We can thus view Putin’s “apology” to Bennett, made in a congratulatory phone call to mark Israel’s Independence Day last week, with a jaundiced eye.
Two takeaways from this latest series of events. One, that Israel cannot continue quasi-courting Russia in order to maintain the status quo in Syria.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the genocidal behaviour of the Russian military towards Ukrainian civilians, needs unequivocal condemnation and action by Israel. Plainly Bennett’s “mercy dash” to see Putin, on a Shabbat at the beginning of the war, boreno results.
And my second conclusion is that despite all the thousands of words expended on what happened during the Holocaust, on Holocaust education, of “never forget”, naked antisemitism remains on the rise globally.
Perhaps we have lost the battle. It doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. We need to think of smarter ways to combat this seemingly endless tide of hatred.