Arabs burn Zara clothes, call for boycott after franchisee hosts Ben Gvir event

Fashion retailer called fascist over campaign appearance for far-right Otzma Yehudit lawmaker at Ra’anana home of Joey Schwebel, who controls Zara Israel

Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at a Channel 12 conference in Rishon LeZion, October 20, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at a Channel 12 conference in Rishon LeZion, October 20, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Arab Israelis filmed themselves burning clothing sold by Zara and called for a boycott of the fashion chain after its local franchisee hosted a campaign event for far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir.

Joey Schwebel, who holds Canadian and Israeli citizenship, hosted Ben-Gvir at his home in Ra’anana Thursday night.

Schwebel chairs Trimera Brands, a fashion distribution giant which is the Israeli franchisee for Zara, controlling Zara Israel and other brands owned by Spain’s Inditex.

Ben Gvir heads the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit faction, which is running in the November 1 election with Religious Zionism and is forecast to win as many as 12 seats.

The rise of the firebrand politician, a former follower of late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, has raised hackles over his support for extreme right-wing positions, including the deportation of people deemed disloyal to the state.

Several Arab Israelis posted videos of themselves on social media burning clothes they had previously purchased at the retailer or calling for a boycott.

Among those joining the protest was Rahat Mayor Fayez Abu Sahiban, who labeled Zara as “fascist” for Schwebel’s support of Ben Gvir.

“Our stance needs to be clear in relation to shops like these that support fascism,” he said.

“Everyone knows who Ben Gvir is. A racist that wants to murder Arabs and supports harming them. He compares Arabs to terrorists,” said Issa Abu Elritaj, a resident of the northern Arab town of Yafa an-Naseriyye.

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, who has frequently clashed with Ben Gvir on the Knesset floor, took to Twitter to call out the “ugliness” of Zara.

Ben Gvir responded to the tweet, writing: “Zara, beautiful clothes, beautiful Israelis.”

The Hadash-Ta’al lawmaker snapped back, suggesting that the retailer “will open a branch at the heart of the fascist Jewish settlement in Hebron.”

Schwebel’s office told Channel 12 news that they would not comment on “private family matters.”

Trimera also controls Gottex, though the swimwear company apparently avoided the backlash.

Otzma Yehudit defended the event and accused critics of intolerance. “There are those for whom tolerance, freedom of speech and democracy are just slogans because in practice they behave exactly the opposite,” it said.

Ben Gvir frequently stirs up friction between Jewish and Arab Israelis and was reportedly accused by the national police chief of abetting the worst inter-communal violence in recent Israeli history in May of last year.

He has additionally allied with some of Israel’s most extremist Jewish movements and activists, including Lehava, a Jewish supremacist anti-miscegenation group, and the virulently homophobic Noam.

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