Let it never be said that Vogue UK doesn't have a political conscience. In this month's London edition, we have no less than Bella Freud personally authoring a breathless piece on her trip to "Palestine". As the editor's letter excitedly tells us, "Fashion's reach is far and wide, and this is beautifully illustrated by Bella Freud's diary of a trip she organised to Palestine with a group of designers to introduce them to the indigenous embroiderers and the local handicrafts."
Bella's fashion reach goes further than most, for she manages to lob in some quick historical resumes alongside some stellar art references and accounts of her shopping experiences alongside quite a few indications of what looks like a decidely trusting take on whatever political agenda she's shopping for:
We drag ourselves away to an elegant part of town that houses the Dar Al-TIfl Museum. It is a unique place. It is a rarity to visit a Palestinian museum at all-- this one houses antique clothes and artefacts, many of them from villages that have been destroyed. There are costumes from the Ottoman Empire as well as immaculately kept examples of dresses from Bethlehem, Ramallah, Gaza and more. I can't stop thinking about a blue-black dress with Francis Bacon-pink inserts that I had tried on earlier in Ghassan's Gallery. The museum is also an orphanage and school. Although they have room for 300 little girls, there are only 70 at present due to the closure of the West Bank and Gaza. Mrs Dajani, the director tells us that the orphanage came about in 1948 when 55 children escaped from the massacre at Deir Yassin
If you've done with puzzling over why we've never before heard about the plight of the 230 little girl orphans in the West Bank and Gaza pining for a place at the Dar Al-Tifl Museum and orphanage, there's time for you to take in Bella's quick passing references to things Israeli:
We traipse into Birzeit university to meet Vera Tamari, the director of its ethnographic and art museum. She is also an artist and I have heard about her installations made with crushed cars bulldozed by Israeli tanks. She has the air of a resistance heroine; she's intelligent and funny too.....
Soon Amir's beaming face appears and we jump into the minibus and set off for Bethlehem--now sealed off, except for a narrow opening between 60ft-high slabs of concrete. It is a chilling sight. A tall, blond Israeli soldier screams at us and gives us the finger because we take photos. We wander round the Church of the Nativity, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and we are alone.
Sadly, Bella doesn't have time to tell us how she developed her approach to analysing the role of Israel in crushing Palestinian fashion initiatives and locking out orphans. But this from the Independent by Deborah Orr shows how Bella has been working for years with her friend Karma Nabulsi, a well known militant Palestinian activist and former PLO representative, an example of whose entirely balanced approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is here. Karma has been made a trustee of Bella's Hoping Foundation which uniquely enlists celebrities and the fashion-conscious to help the cause along.