markusspiske / Pixabay The reason for Zara’s Palestinian boycott and all the commotion is the meeting of the franchise owner of the brand in Israel – Joey Schwebel with the controversial, extreme right and racist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, whom Schwebel visited last Wednesday in his residence in the city of Raanana (north of Tel Aviv). According to Israeli television, the meeting with Ben-Gvir was interpreted as a gesture of support in the elections to be held in Israel on November 1. Ben-Gvir is number two on the list of the far-right and anti-Palestinian Otzma Yehudit party, which supports the deportation of people recognized as enemies of Israel, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and calls for the annulment of the Oslo accords on the basis of which the Palestinian Authority was established. According to polls, support for Otzma Yehudit is constantly growing, and the party may become the third political force in Israel. The spokesmen of Schwebel – a Canadian-Israeli billionaire, president of Trimera Brands, which has a franchise of all brands of the Inditex group in Israel (a clothing holding company whose flagship brand is Zara) and has a total of 80 stores there – do not provide any explanations except that the meeting was private . Inditex, which does not have stores in the Palestinian territories, is also dissociating itself from the whole matter. For now, the boycott is only local and with limited effect, even though Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian Authority’s highest judge of Sharia courts, has called for “a worldwide boycott of Zara until the company terminates the franchise agreement with Joey Schwebel.” Israeli left and Arab activists also criticized Schwebel for his contacts with Ben-Gvir, whose views on the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem are considered racist, homophobic and far-right. “There are those who defend tolerance, freedom of speech and democracy only as slogans, because in practice they behave exactly the opposite,” Otzma Yehudit party replied in a statement. These are not Zara’s first problems in this region. Just a year ago, one of the company’s partners, Palestinian Qaher Harhash, spread the messages he received on Instagram from Vanessa Perilman, one of the heads of the regional clothing design team for the Inditex group. Perilman, who is a Jew, wrote that if the Palestinians “had been educated, they would not have blown up hospitals and schools in the Gaza Strip that Israel had helped to pay for.” When the news came out, Perilman began receiving threats of stoning and finally apologized to Harhash on her profile. Inditex later issued a statement stressing that it “does not accept disrespect for culture, religion, country, race, or any beliefs,” but did not punish the designer. In 2014, the Inditex group had to withdraw their T-shirts from the market because in Israel they were associated with the clothes of prisoners of German concentration camps. It was a kids’ striped model with a yellow star on the heart, inspired (according to the company’s explanatory tweet) by the models worn by sheriffs in classic westerns. Seven years earlier, Inditex apologized to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel for mixing cotton and linen in men’s clothing, which Judaism considers to be an unnatural hybrid. In the same year, the company also had to remove the line of bags with the swastika on it. Inditex explained that the bag was designed and made by an external supplier in India, where the swastika is considered a symbol of good luck. Moreover, company spokesmen argued that the original design did not contain the controversial symbol.
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