Fashion retailer Zara on Tuesday condemned anti-Palestinian comments made by one of its top designers after the remarks sparked calls to boycott the Spanish clothing line on social media.
Vanessa Perilman, Zara’s chief designer for her women’s department, had an online argument with model Qaher Harhash, who is Palestinian, over her advocacy for the people of Gaza.
“Maybe if your people were educated they wouldn’t blow up the hospitals and schools that Israel helped pay for in Gaza,” Perilman wrote to Harhash on Instagram by direct message on June 9.
“People in my industry know the truth about Israel and Palestine and I will NEVER stop standing up for Israel and people like you come and go at the end,” Perilman wrote. your people do. “
In an interview in Berlin on Wednesday, Harhash said he was at first stunned that someone with so much influence in fashion like Perilman would engage with him in such a rude way.
“I went to their profile and saw that it said she was the senior designer at Zara,” Harhash told NBC News. “So I was like, I backed off, I was like, like first of all, I just don’t wanna play with, with somebody you know.”
Harhash posted screenshots of Perilman’s posts in his Instagram Stories, which then went viral. Messages demanding Perilman’s dismissal and calling for a boycott of Zara have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media.
In a statement to NBC News on Tuesday, the company that owns the Zara brand, Inditex, said it “accepts no disrespect for any culture, religion, country, race or creed.”
“Zara is a diverse company and we will never tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the company continued. “We condemn these comments which do not reflect our core values of mutual respect, and we regret the offense they caused.”
The company did not mention any plans to fire or discipline the designer.
Perilman appeared to back down after her first comments went viral, writing Harhash that she was sorry. “Well I guess it goes back to the old saying my grandmother used to say which is ‘anger is the start of bad judgment’,” she wrote in direct messages that Harhash he has also shared on Instagram. ” I’m so sorry. I really hope you can forgive me.
Perilman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Harhash urged those in the fashion industry to stand up against anti-Palestinian sentiment.
“We usually see brands standing up against anti-Semitism, but we also have time to see brands standing up against anti-Palestinianism,” said the East Jerusalem-born and raised model. “And this is something that should be addressed.”
Entire buildings and many homes in the Gaza Strip were damaged or destroyed during the 11-day conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas in May.
At least 243 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 Israelis were killed in the escalations, officials said. What began as clashes that first erupted months ago in Jerusalem has turned into a conflict that has spread far beyond the ancient city walls, sparking a wave of civil unrest in Israel and protests around the world.
Harhash said Zara could take this opportunity to reach out to the Palestinians and the wider Muslim community.
“As far as Zara is concerned, however, what I really hope is that they make a statement which is not only addressed to me, but also a statement which is addressed to the Muslims they have offended. , to the Palestinians whom they have offended. , he said on Wednesday.
“I think that’s something really important, because they could apologize to me, and I could accept it, but then there is an audience – like a huge amount of Arabs and Muslims – who are offended by what they said. “
David K. Lee contributed.