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Behind the headlines

Battling for hearts and minds on Instagram

Hadid (left) and Gadot: “primary sources of information” on Israel-Gaza. Getty

Gal Gadot and Bella Hadid are “two of the most famous and beautiful women on the planet”, says Charlotte Ivers in The Sunday Times. Gadot is Wonder Woman, the “corset-wearing, sword-wielding” DC Comics heroine; Hadid, along with her sister Gigi, is “the face of luxury fashion”. And in the past month they have become leading players in the “ferocious and toxic” online battles over what’s happening in the Middle East. Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, has swapped her usual glossy Instagram fare for posts highlighting the devastation in Gaza. Gadot, a former Miss Israel, has done the same for her home country, arranging a screening in LA to broadcast Israeli Defence Force footage of the October 7 massacre.

Why should you care about what a movie star and a supermodel are saying on social media? Because for most people, particularly those under 40, these and other celebrities are one of the “primary sources of information about the conflict”. Hadid has 61 million Instagram followers; Gadot has 109 million. Israel is under no illusions about their influence – the country’s official Instagram account responded directly to one of Gigi Hadid’s posts, accusing her of “turning a blind eye to Jewish babies being butchered in their homes”. Both stars have received a “torrent of abuse” for speaking out. Of course, celebrity activism is nothing new – just think of “Hanoi” Jane Fonda’s 1972 visit to north Vietnam. “But conflict in the Holy Land has the ability to divide and outrage like little else.”