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June 17, 2021 4:15 pm

Fashion Retailer Zara Condemns Comments Made by Jewish Head Designer About Israel-Palestinian Conflict


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A Zara shop. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The retail company Zara denounced on Tuesday comments made by one of its head designers about the Israel-Palestinian conflict after the remarks resulted in social media users calling for a boycott of the Spanish fashion brand.

Vanessa Perilman, Zara’s head designer for its women’s department, who is Jewish, got into a heated conversation with Palestinian male model Qaher Harhash on Instagram over the latter’s support for Palestinians and criticism of Israel.

Harhash has accused the Jewish state of perpetrating apartheid and the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. On Thursday morning, the Jerusalem-born model claimed in his Instagram stories that the Israeli government “makes sure [Palestinians] never learn to speak Hebrew, so we could remain unemployed, in order for us to stay under the poverty-line … their whole country is built and continues to be built on our ethnic cleansing.”

On June 9, Perilman had written to Harhash on Instagram over direct message, saying, “Maybe if your people were educated then they wouldn’t blow up the hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza. Israelis don’t teach children to hate nor throw stones at soldiers as your people do.”

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She also told the model, “The people in my industry know the truth about Israel and palestine and I will NEVER stop defending Israel and people like you come and go in the end.” Perilman later apologized for her comments in a series of messages to Harhash.

After the model posted screenshots of Perilman’s messages to his Instagram stories, social media users called for a boycott of Zara and demanded that the store fire the designer.

In a statement to NBC News, the company that owns the Zara brand, Inditex, did not mention any disciplinary action that would be taken against Perilman but said it “does not accept any lack of respect to any culture, religion, country, race or belief.”

“Zara is a diverse company and we shall never tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the company continued. “We condemn these comments that do not reflect our core values of respect for one another, and we regret the offense that they have caused.”

Harhash told NBC News on Wednesday that he wants Zara to come out with a statement directed at Palestinians who have been offended by the ordeal.

“We usually see brands standing against antisemitism, but it’s also time we see brands standing against anti-Palestinianism. And that’s something that should be addressed,” he said. “When it comes to Zara, however, what I would really hope for is that they make a statement that is not only directed towards me, but also a statement that is directed towards Muslims that they’ve offended, Palestinians that they’ve offended.

“I think that’s something that’s really important, because they could apologize to me, and I could accept that, but then there’s a load of audience — like a huge amount of Arabs and Muslims — that are offended by what they’ve said.”

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