The Hadid side of the story

Alana Hadid Wants You to Talk to Palestinians

In the next wave of Palestine advocacy, Alana Hadid is making sure she’s staying in front of it. The Los Angeles-based fashion designer has emerged as one of the most active celebrity voices trying to make sense of the Israeli occupation for social media. Alongside her influential family that includes half-siblings Bella, Gigi, and Anwar Hadid, Alana makes fearlessly talking back to power look like a family tradition — one to which everyone is invited.

Alana opens up about how the Hadids lost their home in Palestine during the Nakba, what the cost of advocacy has really looked like behind the scenes in the industry and how dating that Israeli boyfriend informed her activism.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Transcribed by Liz Aziz.

MUSLIM GIRL: Alana, I’m so excited we’re finally having this conversation. For those that don’t know that much about your life, how about you introduce yourself?

ALANA HADID: I’m a clothing designer and co-founder of my brand La Detresse in Los Angeles. I’m half-American, half-Palestinian. My father [Mohamed Hadid] is Palestinian. He was born in Nazareth, but his family was based in Safed, which is in Palestine. I mean, well, it’s in Palestine to us, but it’s in Israel [now].

Same. My mom was born in Jerusalem, but my family is from Deir Yassin, which was one of the first villages to get massacred before the Nakba. The Holocaust Memorial Museum overlooks where the village used to exist.

Oh wow.

It’s crazy because any person that I meet today — like any Palestinian that’s my age or my generation — that says they’re from Deir Yassin, we’re inevitably related somehow. We go back up the family tree and there’s, like, a cousin or a grandparent somewhere.

Of course, of course, of course. We’re all related.

You especially have been so vocal — and your father has been so vocal — about your Palestinian roots and your family history. What’s the story?

My grandmother comes from a very prominent family in Nazareth. She went to her family home in Nazareth to have my father. Before that, while my grandmother was pregnant with my father, they had taken in, according to what I’ve heard a few times, a Polish family that had come as refugees. They were living in the guest house. So, when my grandmother went to go [be with her mother to] have my father, she took all of her children [with her], of course. And my grandfather was working, and basically one day he came back [from work] and they had moved into the entire house.

What was crazy about hearing that story was — I heard it so many times, and I knew that displacement was happening throughout time since my father and his family. I flashed back to all these stories about my family and how it was so easy for someone to take their home. I’m seeing it’s 2021 and this is still happening. This has been going on for 70-plus years.

People have been displaced. Palestinians are being displaced from their homes and it’s happening now. And it’s still state-sanctioned.

I’m curious. What has your dad’s reaction been like watching you and your sisters be vocal? Has he been worried or has he said anything about that?

He’s proud. He’s super proud. And he knows that we can all take care of ourselves. I mean, we really do also think about what we’re posting. A lot of people are like, you’re just posting whatever you want. There’s been a long thought process on why I’m posting that and what I think that people are going to get out of it. I want to amplify all sorts of voices, not just Palestinian voices — Israeli voices, Jewish voices, American voices, voices that are saying something that I think that are really important. And I’m willing to suffer the consequences knowing that what I’m doing is something that I think is really important. 

Palestinians are being displaced from their homes and it’s happening now.

Why do you feel like it’s so important for people to be aware of what’s happening in Palestine right now?

This is a humanitarian crisis. This is a humanitarian crisis. I mean, I can’t say it enough. It’s important that people understand that this is not one side against another side and debating our views. We are pointing out that there are people who are being mistreated in a very horrible way for many, many years. We want equality and we want to be treated correctly. And we want the people that are living in these countries to be allowed to live like they live in a sovereign country. People need to hear about it. If it was happening in your country, or if it was happening anywhere else in the world, you would want to know.

Is there something that changed for you that made you want to become more vocal?

I did have conversations with people in college about it. Then, I just kind of did what a lot of people do, and they go, (shrugs) “Well, it’s not [happening] here.” And then I was like, wait, I’m not paying enough attention. I started meeting a lot more Israelis, having those conversations and having closer relationships with my family members living in Israel and Palestine. A couple of years ago, I started dating an Israeli. So, I got, like, a full-on real view from Israel, which I had never probably would have never gotten, if not for him.

It was only until I explained to them that I was here to see my boyfriend, who was Israeli, that they called him and let me through.

I feel like that represents the process for a lot of people. Not everyone jumps from becoming aware of an issue to immediately becoming an advocate for it. And for a lot of people, It’s like this process of awareness that happens. But, obviously, I’m super curious about your relationship with an Israeli. 

I’m sure.

What was the situation? What was that like for you?

He lives and works in Tel Aviv. He was kind of coming back and forth, and I hadn’t really thought about going there much. Eventually, as our relationship went on, that was a necessity. I was obviously incredibly nervous. The first time that I went, I would say [it was] slightly traumatic. Honestly, [it wasn’t like I was] expecting for people to give me a big hug and say, “Welcome home.” I was detained. I wasn’t detained in that way, but they routinely send people to what they call “the office” where they ask you a lot of questions.

They asked me what my father’s name was, what my grandfather’s name was, what year he was born. It was only until I explained to them that I was here to see my boyfriend, who was Israeli, that they called him and let me through.

Realistically, Tel Aviv is amazing. I’m not going to try to say something bad about it. It’s amazing. There are beautiful people there. There’s a lot of culture, there’s a lot of amazing things to be experienced. However, when you’re there, you get caught up and you forget there’s all these people right down the way that cannot move through their society in the same place. And then there are all these people who are living there that are treated basically like second class.

The universal idea that every Israeli person is anti-Palestinian is just not true either. And I think that needs to be spoken about more. That’s not true. There are a lot of people who are very pro-Palestine. It is really the government that isn’t.

I like that people are talking about [Palestine] because we’re talking about it, but I want it to be about the message and not about the messenger. 

And the vice versa of that, as I’m sure you’ve been experiencing, is people saying that being pro-Palestine is anti-Semitic.

Oh, yeah. Also, people saying that if you’re pro-Palestine, then you are part of Hamas — that’s another really ridiculous assertion. That’s like saying I’m American so I’m pro-Trump. You can’t equate a person or a citizen with their government. I think that on both ends, that’s a mistake that’s being made constantly.

What do you wish people would take away from what you have to say?

That by speaking about Palestine, that I’m imploring people to hate Jews — which I couldn’t possibly have less of an idea or want for. I hate having to take time away from speaking about being pro-Palestine and what it means, and what Palestine means, and what’s happening there, to try to say that what I’m not.

What’s the biggest concern or risk that you feel when speaking out for Palestine?

What bothers me the most is that there’s been a lot of focus on my family and our advocacy, and that takes focus away from Palestine. And I don’t like that. I like that people are talking about it because we’re talking about it, but I want it to be about the message and not about the messenger. 

You definitely have this place in the culture where it has allowed you to be very influential when you do speak out about injustice. I’m really curious what that blowback has been like for you behind the scenes. It’s obviously knocking down walls for so many more of us to be outspoken and vocal as well. But, I can only imagine that, behind the scenes, it may not have been as easy as it looked to the rest of us on social media.

I’ve gotten death threats, I’ve gotten threats of violence, I’ve gotten a lot of really horrible ugly slurs. I’ve definitely pissed off a lot of friends. The irony is the same people who go to my Instagram to see what’s happening in the world and really trust me, as like a news source, think that I’m lying now. There are very hard truths that are happening now in regards to Israel that a lot of people just really don’t want to hear.

The reality is Israel is really oppressive to a lot of people. That doesn’t mean Israeli people are bad; doesn’t mean Jewish people are bad. That doesn’t mean anything about the people. It’s talking about the fact that it’s a governmental system that has been in place for a long time that needs to change, and it needs to change here and in a lot of other places as well. 

If there’s one thing that I wish people would learn from anything that I post, it’s that oppressed people have a voice. It’s not that people are voiceless or they don’t have the bravery to speak up. They have a voice and it’s on us to listen to them. It’s on us to pass them the mic and empower them to speak for themselves. What’s the one message you want people to remember about Palestine? 

Talk to a Palestinian. Talk to an Israeli. If you’ve never spoken to one, have a conversation, really learn what the realities are.

I want people to take away the fact that Palestinians are humans. Palestinians are humans and really deserve to be treated as such. And they need to be treated with equality, and they need to be treated with respect, and they need to be treated as humans. Our rights and our equality is not at the expense of yours. There has never been a time in history when people, oppressed people, have called out for help that history hasn’t said that they weren’t telling the truth.

I don’t think that denying Palestinians’ oppression is going to help anyone in the long run. It’s only going to hurt Palestinians, and it’s only going to hurt you later for realizing you are on the wrong side of history. 

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