Head of design for the women’s department for the international fast-fashion chain Zara, Vanessa Perilman, sparked a widespread on social media after she made racist comments in an Instagram conversation with a Palestinian model Qaher Harhash, amid calls for a boycott of the company and its products.
During the conversation, Perilman defended Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, blamed the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, whom she described as terrorists, and attacked the Islamic faith and Muslims at the same time.
“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 Harhash on Instagram over direct message on June 9.
“But it’s okay, people in my field know the truth about Israel and Palestine. I will not stop defending Israel and people like you come and go in the end,” the designer added. “Israelis don’t teach children to hate nor throw stones at soldiers as your people do,” she said.
Zara designer also questioned Qahar about being a model despite her belief, saying: “I think it’s funny to be a model because this is actually against what Islam believes in and if you come out of the closet in any Muslim country you will be stoned to death.”
The statements come a month after Israel launched an 11-day war with Hamas, during which Israeli air strikes killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and Palestinian rockets left 11 people dead in Israel.
Talking about the incident, Harhash told NBC News in an interview, “I went to their profile, and I saw that it said she’s the senior female designer at Zara. So I was like, I backed up, I said to myself, like first of all, I don’t want to mess around with anyone.”
Harhash posted screenshots of Perilman’s messages to his Instagram stories, which then went viral. Posts calling for Perilman’s dismissal and calling for boycott Zara have been shared thousands of times on social media.
Vanessa Perilman has deleted her Instagram account due to backlash and widespread calls for a formal apology from her and the company, which is criticized for failing to explicitly condemn her employee’s remarks.
The hashtags #boycottZara and #zaramustapologise (# zazadoits’excuser) have gained popularity in recent days, calling on netizens to stop buying its products. Zara has stores in the Middle East and North Africa, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Kuwait and Algeria.
Before deleting her social media accounts, Vanessa Perilman apologized to the Palestinian model in private messages.
She indicated that she had received a flood of threats and apologized for the situation, which has become ‘out of control’.
“I literally get death threats for my children… I’m not ignorant, I’m just sick of everyone telling me terrible things about Israel,” she explains.
“It’s just that there are so many people who have been super mean at work, saying terrible things about the Jews, that I carried this over to you and I feel very, very bad… I know it well. the Hadids too and I can’t believe I wrote that, ”she adds, referring to Palestinian models Gigi and Bella Hadid , who are one of the advocates for the Palestinian cause.
Qaher Harhash says he did not accept this ‘half hearted’ apology. Vanessa Perilman wanted him to “understand the Israeli perspective”.
Qaher Harhash, who has worked with brands such as Vogue, Ukraine and Versace, used his Instagram account to raise awareness about the forced displacement of Palestinian residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.
“If Zara wants to make a statement with me, the statement needs to say that they stand with the indigenous people and are against what is happening in Chinese concentration camps in Xinjiang,” he said on Instagram.
“They also need to address the Islamophobia which is predominantly ignored in European society… Also, a campaign where they feature Palestinian designers who are incredibly talented should take place as a way to support the Palestinian fashion scene.”
A statement from a company spokesperson in a media report on Wednesday read: “Zara does not accept any disrespect for any culture, religion, country, race or belief. Zara is a diverse company and will never tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
“We condemn these comments, which do not reflect our core values of respecting each other, and we regret the offense they have caused. As a diverse, multicultural company, we are committed to ensuring a fair and inclusive environment as part of our corporate values.”