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Celebrity Numbskull Of The Day

Meet Tilda Swinton.

British Vogue

A flick through the November issue of the British edition of Vogue revealed one accessory I did not expect to see. After pages of faux fur, sequinned clutches and designer feathered capes, I happened upon something rather more surprising: a full-page shot of actress Tilda Swinton sporting a knitted scarf emblazoned not with a designer logo but with the word “Palestine.”

What does it mean when an Oscar-winning actress appears in British Vogue wearing a Palestine scarf, particularly amidst a media and film industry which generally demonizes the people of the Middle East? Either it was an intentional message of solidarity, or simply a deliberately-controversial fashion statement on the part of a celebrity known for her unusual style choices.

The image has caused quite a buzz in social media, with many agreeing that this was the brave stance of a free-thinking and intelligent woman. Does this mean that supporting Palestine has become a status symbol, or is it a positive sign of acceptance of the Palestine issue into mainstream media?

The image is certainly compelling. Swinton stands defiantly, hands on hips, staring coolly into the camera as if daring the viewer to challenge her views. The red, green, black and white scarf, made by eccentric British fashion designer Bella Freud (the anti-Israel great granddaughter of Sigmund Freud – Aussie Dave) features a Palestinian flag and the word “Palestine” along with an image depicting a key, the symbol of Palestinian refugees.

Many may be familiar with Tilda Swinton in her role as ice queen Jadis in the Chronicles of Narnia series. A highly-acclaimed actress, she has starred in numerous arthouse pictures as well as more mainstream films, such as The Beach, alongside Leonardo di Caprio, and Michael Clayton, for which she won an Academy Award. Swinton’s latest outing is as tortured mother Eva in the screen adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s prize-winning book We Need to Talk About Kevin.

But Swinton has become well-known in the fashion circuit as much for her unconventional style statements and striking appearance as she is for any on-screen success. She embraces the looks which most celebrities fear to touch. Whether the shaved undercut in her current Pringle of Scotland ad campaign, her strikingly androgynous looks and masculine tailoring, or her continually avant-garde red carpet ensembles, Swinton is renowned for being unafraid to take style risks. While Swinton is no doubt paid handsomely to endorse certain designers and campaigns, there seems to be a consistency in her willingness to push the boundaries of fashion.

For some this usually lands her on post-Oscar “worst-dressed” lists, while for others it only enhances her status as a modern style icon, all of which begs the question: was this appearance in British Vogue wearing a Palestinian symbol another stylist’s attempt to split the opinion of the fashion world? Perhaps, alternatively, it sent a message of solidarity to an audience which may otherwise never have considered the Israel-Palestine conflict at all.

—-

In a brief interview with Tilda Swinton for The Electronic Intifada, I asked her about her unconventional choice of accessory. “The scarf I wore in Vogue is mine,” she said.

When asked if the scarf was a message of solidarity for the Palestinian cause, she added that it was “designed by my pal Bella Freud for the Hoping Foundation, set up in the name of hope and optimism for Palestinians of the next generation, of which I am a friend.”

So, not a deliberate attempt to be controversial, then?

“[It’s] just my favorite scarf,” she replied.

The Hoping Foundation funds grassroots projects for Palestinian children throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and works closely with UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, to support those living in refugee camps.

“We want to show young Palestinians that their struggle to transform their lives is encouraged and supported by the people in Britain and throughout the rest of the world … The projects we are asked to support give these children the opportunity to play, to learn, and to express themselves through art, photography, film, music, theatre, dance and sport,” says the Hoping mission statement (“The Hoping Foundation website).

Over the years, Freud has hosted several high-profile events to raise money and awareness for Palestinian refugee children, attended by the likes of supermodel Kate Moss, actor Hugh Grant and Pakistani politician Imran Khan. And, of course, Tilda Swinton, who once auctioned off the reading of a story to a child in order to raise money for Hoping.

So the choice to wear the scarf seems to be the genuine choice by a friend of the Hoping Foundation and the Palestinian cause.

I don’t even understand the doubt in the mind of the author since wearing anything that shows support for the palestinians is not controversial. Being anti-Israel is the fashionable thing, especially amongst the Hollywood set. Wearing something in solidarity with Israel – now that would raise eyebrows.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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