Millionaire model Bella Hadid faced a wave of social media abuse after she posted an Instagram photo from an airport that some felt disrespected the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 19, 2019

American model Bella Hadid was killing time at JFK airport in New York.

While most people would be looking at their smartphone or engaged in a conversation or in a novel, the 22-year-old New Yorker literally kicked up her heels and posted a photo to her 24.8 million Instagram followers.

Now, what is the harm in that?

The image shows Hadid, who earned about US$8.5 million in 2018 according to Forbes, with her shoe on the window of her check-in area with a trio of airplanes in the background – one was a UAE plane and the second one was a Saudi plane.

Bella’s father Mohamed is Palestinian and her mother Yolanda is from the Netherlands. Through her father, she claims descent from Daher Al Omer, Prince of Nazareth and the Sheik of Galilee.

Unbeknown at first to Hadid, some of her followers deemed the photograph “racist” and she was attacked for “kicking” the planes and “insulting” the flags of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A hashtag #BellaHadidIsRacist began and a tirade of abuse was directed at the New York-based model.

In Arab culture, showing the bottom of your shoe or feet is considered an insult. The Saudi Arabia national flag is green and features an Arabic inscription and a sword. The inscription is the Islamic creed or shahada: “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.

The shahada is considered holy and the flag is not allowed on T-shirts or other items. Saudi Arabia protested against its inclusion on a planned football to be issued by FIFA, bearing all the flags of the participants of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Saudi officials said that kicking the creed with the foot was completely unacceptable.

Hadid insisted there was nothing political about her picture and posted a lengthy apology on her Instagram story in both English and Arabic.

“I never noticed the planes in the background, and that is the truth. I would never mean to disrespect these airlines, let alone these amazing countries,” Hadid said.

“Not only do I have so much respect from the bottom of my heart, I have always tried to stand up for what I feel is right, especially regarding the great Middle East.

“I have never and will never be the one to talk down on these countries…Only to spread love, and the true beauty of them, as the way I was taught by my Teta (grandmother) and my father. To feel as if I have disappointed you is what hurts me the most.”

The model added she “would never want my posts or platform to be used for hate against anyone, especially those of my own beautiful and powerful heritage”.

“I want to send a sincere apology to those who ever thought I would put blame on them, especially to Saudi Arabia and the UAE…

“This was never the case, and I hope you can understand the misunderstanding.”

She also posted on Twitter.

Not everyone was willing to accept Hadid’s apology.

“Don’t play with us again sweetie,” someone replied on Twitter.

“We don’t care if you did it by mistake or not but you are famous. You should to be more carefully (sic).”

Another Twitter user wrote: “It’s such a funny thing how her family defend her like we’re all are bullies when she is actually being racist and insulting KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) & UAE in public using the fact that she’s famous shame on you Bella!!”

Alanfal tweeted: “Bella Hadid you are a Palestinian giving up your country and your humanity first for the dollar, so stop spreading hatred by insulting Saudi Arabia and the UAE”.

And Lama wrote: “It’s your second mistake & second apology! If you really thinks that what have you did is wrong why you did it again? I’m sure you apologise to because Dior deleted their last posts of you, and you’re afraid of more losses. Poor Bella!”

This isn’t the first time Bella Hadid, the younger sister of fellow supermodel Gigi, has landed in hot water for her behaviour.

Calvin Klein was forced to apologise to the LGBQT community for “queer baiting” when it created an ad featuring Bella Hadid kissing a female robot.

Hadid was accused of racism last year for saying the N-word while singing along to a Lil Wayne song at the Coachella Festival.