Mohamed Hadid says his children 'know they're Palestinians' in Harvard speech

The property mogul was joined at the prestigious event by his five kids, including models Gigi and Bella, as he spoke about his Arab heritage

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Alana Hadid and Mohamed Hadid attend Alana Hadid x Lou & Grey Celebrate Collaboration With Friends And Family In Los Angeles at Republique on December 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Lou & Grey)

Both Gigi and Bella Hadid have previously spoken about embracing their Palestinian heritage, and now it's clear to see where that passion for their past comes from.

The models' father, property mogul Mohamed Hadid, this weekend opened up about instilling a sense of Palestinian identity in his children, as he was interviewed at the Arab Conference at Harvard 2019.

The developer, who was born in Nazareth and spent time in refugee camps as a child, was the keynote speaker at this year's event, held at America's prestigious Harvard University.

Mohamed Hadid, Hassan Morshedy, & the Startup Pitch Competition

Live from the Arab Conference at Harvard 2019, a conversation with Mohamed Hadid, keynote speech with Hassan Morshedy and our Startup Pitch Competition.

Posted by Harvard Arab Alumni Association on Sunday, April 7, 2019

"I’m just a simple man from Nazareth, and I’ll always be a simple man from Palestine," the father-of-five told journalist Jessica Azar on stage on Sunday.

"One of my dreams is to have my kids carry the name Palestine with them everywhere they go, because it seems like we are losing that name as we go on. We want to make sure my family always carries that on."

Hadid, 70, was joined at the conference by his children, including son Anwar and daughters Marielle and Alana, who supported their father on stage as he was presented with an award.

The developer, who lived in Damascus, Beirut and Tunis before moving to the US aged 14 with his family, added that while he only lived in Palestine for the first few months of his life, it will always be his heritage.

"My parents always embedded in us that we are Palestinians, we’ll always be Palestinians, so my home has always been that virtual home, where my mum, my dad, my kids were learning to roll grape leaves with their grandma," Hadid, who has Jordanian and American citizenship, said.

The star added that he was proud to have given his children Arabic names; Gigi, for instance, actually has the first name Jelena, while Bella's middle name is Khair.

"I think their mothers had something to do with it as well," he joked, before adding: "They kept both cultures within our kids."

Hadid also revealed he last visited Palestine "about three years ago", when he returned to his childhood home.

"I went to the same bed I was born in, my mother was born in that bed also. Hopefully I can take the kids there one day."

Both Bella and Gigi have previously spoken out about their heritage, with the latter calling out her critics last year.

"When I shot the cover of Vogue Arabia, I wasn't 'Arab enough' to be representing those girls, even though I'm half-Palestinian," she said at a Reebok event in Sydney in November. "I'm as Palestinian as I am Dutch. Just because I have blonde hair, I still carry the value of my ancestors and I appreciate and respect that."

Gigi Hadid and her sister Bella pose on the red carpet at the 2019 Variety's Power of Women event in New York, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Bella, meanwhile, revealed she was "proud to be a Muslim" in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s attempted travel bans in 2017.

"My dad was a refugee when he first came to America, so it's actually very close to home for my sister and brother and me," she told fashion magazine Porter of Mr Trump's attempted travel bans.

“He was always religious, and he always prayed with us."