The Palestinian Model Who Took on Zara: 'We Must Stop Being Afraid'

East Jerusalem model Qaher Harhash published personal correspondence from Zara’s head designer and launched a campaign to boycott the company

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Qaher Harhash.
Qaher Harhash.Credit: Iconic Management

East Jerusalem model Qaher Harhash set off a social media storm last week when he published personal correspondence with Zara’s head designer, who had berated him for supporting Palestinians during the bloody events in Jerusalem and Gaza last month.

Harhash, 23, said in an interview this week that he didn’t fear for his career following the incident.

The designer, Vanessa Perilman, who is of Jewish origin, attacked Harhash about his pro-Palestinian positions and protected Israel’s policy. She wrote to him, among other things, “Also, I think it’s funny 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.”

Her statements enraged many people and led to a social media campaign to boycott the Spanish apparel retailer.

Harhash told Haaretz this week that while he expected the furor over the incident, because “the matter hadn’t been addressed for many years,” he did not expect Perilman’s specific remarks because “I couldn’t expect someone with so much power to say things like that to people.”

He said that he expected Zara to apologize to all of their Muslim customers that were insulted, not only to him personally as ultimately happened.

Asked if he was afraid fewer companies would work with him following the event, he said, “in certain situations you have to stop fearing it. Sometimes the situation is bigger than one person alone, and ultimately it exceeds the individual’s career. I’m sure there are amazing people in the fashion industry, some of whom I’ve worked with.”

Zara isn’t the only company to find itself in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the fighting, nor is Harhash the only model in this situation. Super models Bella and Gigi Hadid, who are of Palestinian descent, were also the target of a social media campaign to fire them from fashion projects due to their pro-Palestinian statements last month.

The Associated Press fired Jewish journalist Emily Wilder last month following a series of pro-Palestinian statements on her social media accounts. The news agency claimed her tweets had had violated the company’s policy, but did not specify which ones. The BBC parted ways with Palestinian journalist Tala Halawa, after she tweeted among other things during the war in Gaza that “Hitler was right.”

More than 500 journalists published an open letter to media outlets in the United States this month asserting their coverage of the conflict consisted of an anti-Palestinian bias.

A campaign against Facebook claimed the algorithm was biased against pro-Palestinian posts and some of the company’s employees asked the management anonymously to fix it, despite Facebook’s denial of such a bias.

Similar requests to support the Palestinians and to cut off ties with Israel were made by employees of other technology giants such as Google and Apple.

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