Fast fashion giant Zara has come under fire after Palestinian model Qaher Harhash revealed messages sent from Vanessa Perilman, the brand’s head designer for women’s clothing, in response to his posts calling for justice in Palestine.
“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?” Perilman messaged Harhash on Instagram. “Omg I want to vomit. It’s so unfair and such lies.”
She added, “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, as Jews survived the Holocaust we will survive this bullshit circus media that you are posting.
“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 said.
In its latest 11-day assault on already-besieged Gaza, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. Israel targeted residential and commercial buildings, including one occupied by international news agencies, under the pretense that they were used by Hamas and other forces. In the lead-up to that assault was the ongoing forced expulsions of Palestinians, including the Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, to make way for illegal Israeli settlements, and a multi-day siege by Israeli forces of a prominent mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan. Hamas rockets left 11 dead in Israel.
Also I think it’s funny that [you’re] a model because in reality that is against what the Muslim faith believes in and if you were to come out of the closet in any Muslim country you would be stoned to death — Vanessa Perilman, Zara head designer
Perilman also added, “Also I think it’s funny that [you’re] a model because in reality that is against what the Muslim faith believes in and if you were to come out of the closet in any Muslim country you would be stoned to death.”
Calls for a boycott of the clothing brand, popular among many Arab Americans, including those in Metro Detroit, came shortly after Harhash posted screenshots of the conversation on Instagram. The hashtags #BoycottZara and #ZaraMustApologize have since circulated on social media.
After the backlash, Perilman sent messages to the model, saying she had received death threats and asking him why he would “post something about me and my job.”
“I’m sorry this fight started something more than it should have, but now it’s getting out of control,” she said.
Harhash responded by saying Perilman should have been aware of the “power dynamic” between a designer for a popular brand and a model and said Perilman was “ignorant.” He refused to “back down from what I posted.”
Perilman extended an apology and hoped the model could forgive her, but also said her frustration came from people “saying terrible things about Jews.”
Harhash did not accept her apologies, saying Perilman’s messages contained “but’s or if’s” and requests to understand “the Israeli perspective.”
“For me an apology means to fully acknowledge the pain or suffering you caused someone,” the model said on Instagram.
If Zara wants to make a statement with me, they also need to address Islamophobia. When certain fashion designers said anti-Semitic things, they were fired from their jobs… Vanessa Perilman hasn’t been fired — Qaher Harhash, model
The designer deleted all of her social media accounts following the conversation. Harhash said on Instagram that Zara had asked him to share Perilman’s apology publicly, which he refused to do.
“If Zara wants to make a statement with me, they also need to address Islamophobia. When certain fashion designers said anti-Semitic things, they were fired from their jobs.” He added, “So far, Vanessa Perilman hasn’t been fired.”
Update from the Palestinian model @qaherharhash who was harassed by Vanessa…Zara reached out to him. He posted these screenshots. This was Vanessa’s “apology” that he didn’t accept that @ZARA wanted us to be okay with. @ZARA_Care this is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/qEYaAZA2gh
— Nooran A. (@nooranhamdan) June 13, 2021
Harhash also called on the brand to give visibility to more Palestinian designers.
Twitter user Nooran A., a graduate student, emailed Zara “to demand that disciplinary action be taken.”
She posted a screenshot of the company’s email response, which said the issue did not take place through official social media, and that it conducted an investigation to address the situation.
“From what we know through our research, her immediate and spontaneous apology was accepted and so the misunderstanding was clarified and closed on Wednesday.”
“This was Vanessa’s “apology” that he didn’t accept that @ZARA wanted us to be okay with,” said Nooran, posting screen shots of Harhash and Perilman’s conversation. “@ZARA_Care this is unacceptable.”
Another Twitter asked the clothing brand, “How will you respond — especially since billions of Muslims shop at your stores globally?”
Your head designer’s anti-Palestinian & Islamophobic tirade is sheer racism
How will you respond — especially since billions of Muslims shop at your stores globally? pic.twitter.com/7qp8VHgHrW
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) June 14, 2021