Dubai: Fashion giant Zara has recently condemned anti-Palestinian comments made by its head designer that sparked outrage by Arabs who called for a boycott of the Spanish apparel line on social media.
Vanessa Perilman, who is of Jewish origin, is Zara’s head designer for its women’s department. She engaged in an online argument with Palestinian model Qaher Harhash over his advocacy for Palestinians during Israel’s 11-day war against Gaza last month.
She sent a series of inflammatory messages to the 23-year-old East Jerusalem resident on Instagram. “Maybe if your people were educated then they wouldn’t blow up the hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza,” Perilman wrote to the Palestinian model.
In another message, she said: “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. Israelis don’t teach children to hate nor throw stones at soldiers as your people do.”
Harhash posted screenshots of Perilman’s messages to his Instagram stories that went viral on social media. Many put posts demanding Perilman be disciplined and calling for a boycott of Zara.
Her statements enraged many people and led to a social media campaign to boycott the Spanish apparel retailer.
Harbash said: “I couldn’t expect someone with so much power to say things like that to people.”
He said that he expected Zara to apologize to all of their Muslim customers who were insulted, not only to him personally as ultimately happened.
When asked if he was afraid about his career, he said, “in certain situations you have to stop fearing it. Sometimes the situation is bigger than one person alone, and ultimately it exceeds the individual’s career. I’m sure there are amazing people in the fashion industry, some of whom I’ve worked with.”
Inditex, the company that owns the Zara brand 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.”
However, the company did not mention any plans to discipline the designer.