Israeli Arabs call for Zara boycott after Ben Gvir campaign event

Videos posted to social media showed people burning clothing sold by fashion chain

Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of "Jewish Power" party, Itamar Ben Gvir, centre, and his supporters visit at Hatikva Market in Tel Aviv on Friday during his campaign for the country's election. AP
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Israeli Arabs are calling for a boycott of retail company Zara after its franchise owner hosted far-right political figure Itamar Ben Gvir for an election campaign event in Raanana this week, according to a report by Israeli news channel N12 on Friday.

Videos posted on social media showed people burning clothing sold by the fashion chain after the gathering hosted by Joey Schwebel, chairman of Trimera Brands, the Israeli franchise holder for Zara.

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

Those to call out Mr Schwebel, who holds Canadian and Israeli citizenship, included Arab lawmaker Ahmed Tibi.

Mr Tibi, who often clashes with Mr Ben-Gvir in parliament, wrote on Twitter about the “ugliness” of Zara. In a reply to the tweet, Mr Ben-Gvir said: “Zara, beautiful clothes, beautiful Israelis.”

The mayor of the Israeli city of Rahat, Faiz Abu Sahiban, was filmed burning clothes apparently purchased from Zara.

In November, Israel will hold its fifth national election in four years.

The ballot will pit former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading a bloc of right-wing and ultra-religious parties against centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is leading a camp spanning left and right.

Polls predict the joint list co-headed by Mr Ben Gvir's “Jewish Power” party will win as many as 13 of parliament's 120 seats, perhaps turning the 46-year-old into a kingmaker of a conservative coalition.

Mr Ben Gvir was convicted in 2007 of racist incitement and support for a group on both the Israeli and US terrorism blacklists. He has recently cast himself as a palatable spokesman for the far-right.

He said he no longer advocates expulsion of all Palestinians, just those he deems traitors or terrorists.

“I'm for equal rights. But whoever raises his hand against a soldier, whoever comes out against the State of Israel, whoever wants to turn this into Palestine — it's not where they belong,” Mr Ben-Gvir told Reuters during a campaign stop at a Jerusalem market, where vendors gave him drinks and watermelon.

In a previous election round, Mr Netanyahu ruled out a place for Mr Ben-Gvir in his cabinet. The messaging has grown more welcoming.

Updated: October 22, 2022, 8:59 AM