Calls to boycott Zara after Israel franchise owner hosts far-right leader

Ben Gvir is an Israeli politician known for regularly engaging in provocative incursions into the Al-Aqsa mosque and rallying illegal Israeli settlers who call for the death of Arabs and Palestinians alike.

Global calls to boycott Spanish clothing giant Zara have emerged this week after the franchise holder in Israel hosted infamous far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir at his residence.

Joey Schwebel, the Canadian-Israeli franchise owner of the Inditex fashion group, which owns Zara, hosted Ben-Gvir at his house for a campaign event, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

The ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party in Israel’s legislative elections is led by Ben-Gvir.

He frequently calls for violence against Palestinians, takes part in settler raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. He has also engaged in several violent confrontations with Palestinians on his own.

Officials from the Palestinian Authority have also criticised Zara for the Ben-Gvir meeting, and the Palestinian chief justice has issued a religious decree forbidding people from doing business with the firm, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The campaign was also backed by Israel’s Labor Party leader and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, according to Haaretz.

Online, social media users have rallied against the fashion company, while Palestinians on the ground have been filmed burning clothing from Zara.

“Yes you should boycott Zara for supporting the Israeli fascist Ben Gvir who has called a man who massacred Palestinians his “hero”. This isn’t the first time for Zara: last year their head designer made anti-Palestinian statements. #FreePalestine #BoycottZara,” Palestinian-Canadian lawyer, Diana Buttu.

“A mass campaign to boycott the international clothing company “Zara” which was launched from occupied Palestine, and is escalating globally, after support provided by the company’s agent in the occupying entity to the extremist terrorist “Itamar Ben Gvir” was revealed,” Boycott 4 Pal tweeted.

“I understand that there are people in the West who unconditionally support the occupying state, but since you are a fashion company, choose a character whose dress matches the fashion,” one Twitter used added.

Zara has yet to address the issue in a statement.

The company faced similar backlash earlier this year after one of its senior designers was found on Instagram going on an anti-Palestinian rant just weeks after Israel launched an 11-day bombing campaign on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Vanessa Perilman made the comments to respond to Instagram stories by Palestinian model Qaher Harhash’s who detailed the injustices his people suffer under Israeli occupation.

“So your point is that you are trying to show the world that Israel is a horrible evil country that does terrible things to Palestinians? Omg I want to vomit. This is so unfair and such lies,” Perilman wrote, according to a screenshot shared by the Palestinian model.

“Maybe if your people were educated then they wouldn’t blow up hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza,” she added.

Perilman went on to portray Palestinian parents and their children as the perpetrators of violence in the occupied land, saying that Israelis “do not teach their children to throw stones”.

Shortly after the message was shared, Perilman directly messaged the Palestinian model to say she was receiving “death threats” while continuing to defend her statements and saying that she is “not ignorant”.

The designer later deleted her Instagram account and other social media pages following the backlash, with many filing complaints to Zara for the statements made.

Zara’s parent company Inditex responded to the backlash, saying 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,” said the company in a statement.

“We condemn these comments that do not reflect our core values of respect for one another, and we regret the offence that they have caused,” the statement added.

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