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Arab Israelis boycott Zara over ties with Jewish ultranationalist

The street-initiated boycott against Zara shops in Israel demonstrates the force of the young Israeli Arab generation, seeking to bring about a change through social media.
People walk past the Zara store in a shopping mall, Modiin, Israel, Feb. 21, 2021.

It was reported last week that the franchise holder of the Zara apparel chain in Israel, Joey Schwebel, hosted an election event in his home for ultranationalist Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir. The news quickly caused political uproar, with several Israeli Arab politicians expressing their outrage. Knesset member Ahmed Tibi, of the Arab Hadash-Taal party, tweeted, “The ugliness of Zara Ben-Gvir Israel.” Ben-Gvir wrote in response, “Zara, beautiful clothes, beautiful Israelis.” Taking it a few steps further was Chairman of the Arab Balad party Sami Abu Shehadeh, who announced that he wrote a letter of complaint to the CEO of Zara International, and called on foreign companies in Israel to check “the United Nation’s guiding principles regarding business and human rights.” Mayor of the Bedouin town Rahat Fayez Abu Sahiban documented himself on social media setting fire to a Zara shirt. 

Still, the interesting party of this developing story is not the outcry of Israeli Arab politicians, but rather the outcry in the Israeli Arab street. Over the weekend, the protest spread quickly on social media. Many Israeli Arabs called for a boycott of Zara, using the community’s consumer power so that people think twice before supporting politicians espousing racism toward the Arab public.

Sawsan Sbait of Haifa tweeted, “Bye bye Zara, no more.” Issa Abu Ritaj of Yafia posted a reel on Facebook, saying, “We all know who Ben-Gvir is — the man who is more racist than Netanyahu and never misses an opportunity to incite against the Arab public. So, from today we must boycott the chain and think twice before buying from Zara.” There were also calls from the Israeli Jewish community, such as Limor Moyal, who tweeted, “Bye bye Zara, not coming near its stores in Israel.” 

The unorganized boycott campaign seems to be efficient. Already on Oct. 23, the press reported on a downturn in sales in the Arab town of Nazareth. An unnamed Zara worker there was quoted as saying, “People haven’t come for two days already, there’s a decline of 60% … there’s a decline in sales, the Arabs aren’t coming.”

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