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Israeli Minister Dresses as Jerusalem at Cannes Film Festival, Sparking Anger and Memes

Culture Minister Miri Regev
Israeli Culture Minister Miriam Regev arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Jerusalem office, on October 9, 2016. She turned heads on Wednesday when she arrived at Cannes Film Festival in a dress emblazoned with the Jerusalem skyline. Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty

Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev turned heads on Wednesday when she appeared at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival in France in a white dress emblazoned with the skyline of Jerusalem.

The minister’s long skirt bore a picture of East Jerusalem’s landscape, with the famous golden Dome of the Rock the center of the design that encircled the hem.

Wearing a picture of the contested city was a political fashion statement at one of the biggest movie events of the year. In a press release, Regev said she “wanted the dress to express in its spirit the beauty of Jerusalem, in honor of the 50th anniversary of its liberation and unification.”

The dress and statement are controversial given the differing views of Israelis and Palestinians about the city. The Israeli government considers the city to be Israel’s undivided capital, “unified” after the six-day war in 1967. However, the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their capital for any future sovereign state. The majority of the international community maintains that the city’s status be decided in direct negotiations between both sides.

Miri Regev Regev's dress spurred mock-ups, with pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian interpretations, subjects ranging from the Israeli military to the separation wall, superimposed on the garment. Facebook

Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General in New York and former settler leader in the West Bank, tweeted a picture of Regev’s dress, calling it “amazing.”

But the gown, created by Israeli designer Aviad Arik Herman, not only stirred attention at the festival and among the Israeli elite, but online too, with Israelis and Palestinians mocking up their own political interpretations of the dress.

Read more: Why Trump won't move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Palestinian Zizo Abul Hawa posted a picture of the minister’s dress to Facebook, instead superimposing a picture of the separation wall, the Israeli-built structure that divides Jerusalem from the West Bank. Palestinians say it is a symbol of oppression and military occupation, while Israelis say it is a symbol of security that prevents suicide bombings.

Other users showed the city on fire, referencing frequent clashes in the city between Israeli forces and Palestinians. One Israeli, Eliran Ben Haim, posted to Facebook, “I have no words,” in apparent opposition to Regev’s dress.

He proceeded to post a mockup of the dress with an Israeli airstrike on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip from the seven-week war with the militant group in 2014. The offensive prompted an international outcry over civilian deaths and Haim’s depiction appeared to be a protest against the government’s bombardment of the coastal enclave. Regev, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, previously served as a spokeswoman for the Israeli military.

Some took a more light-hearted approach to the dress. One user pasted a spaceship made famous from the Independence Day film hovering over the Dome of the Rock. Another superimposed a photo of Regev in her dress, onto the dress.

Making use of the Jerusalem skyline instead, another user superimposed it onto a picture of Netanyahu, making his hair a view of the city and creating one of the strangest mockups.

If Regev wanted the dress to draw attention to the politics of the region, she got her wish, but maybe not in the way she might have intended.

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