Zara faces global protest over insensitive ad to Palestinians

Outrage erupted this week as protestors demonstrated at Zara stores worldwide in response to an ad campaign that many felt mocked Palestinian death and suffering.  

The now-removed ads featured a model posing with damaged mannequins and statues draped in white cloth, evoking traumatic images from Gaza.

The fashion giant claimed to regret the “misunderstanding” about its “The Jacket” campaign.  

As #BoycottZara trended online, demonstrations erupted at Zara stores around the world.  

A store in Glasgow shuttered after demonstrators gathered outside with banners, while in Canada, a Montreal store was spray-painted with pro-Palestine graffiti.

Activists in Germany entered a Zara store in Hannover, and used baby swaddling clothes to draw attention to the death of children and infants in Israel’s bombardments.

Similar tactics were employed in a store in Melbourne, while in Tunisia, activists were at Zara stores carrying Palestinian flags.

The UN estimates that nearly 13,000 Palestinian children have been killed in the recent conflict — accounting for 70% of the over 18,000 Palestinians dead since October 7.

“Tone deaf” from Zara

Zara pulled the controversial ad campaign after the backlash online, which many called insensitive and ‘tone deaf.’

“Using death and destruction as a backdrop for fashion is beyond sinister, it’s complicity and should outrage us as consumers,” Palestinian artist Hazem Harb commented on Instagram.

Journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin commented: “And the award for most tone deaf brand of the year goes to Zara.”

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority received over 110 complaints over the campaign.

In response, Zara said the shoot had been conceptualised and photographed before the attacks on Gaza.  

It stated the setting was intended to resemble a sculptor’s studio to highlight “craftmade garments in an artistic context” but removed the images after “some customers felt offended.”

“The campaign, that was conceived in July and photographed in September, presents a series of images of unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio and was created with the sole purpose of showcasing craftmade garments in an artistic context,” the message shared on Zara’s Instagram read.

“Unfortunately some customers felt offended by these images, which have now been removed, and saw in them something far from what was intended when they were created.

“Zara regrets that misunderstanding and we reaffirm our deep respect towards everyone.”

Boycotts having an impact

In response to Israel’s assault on Gaza, consumers are using boycotts to call out corporate complicity.  

These boycotts focus on companies and products playing a role in enabling Israel’s oppressive policies against Palestinians.

Many Western brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC have faced scrutiny for their business dealings in Israel along with their inadequate responses to the conflict.

With successful consumer boycotts in apartheid-era South Africa providing inspiration, viral social media campaigns urge the avoidance of brands with proven track records of normalising Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.

For corporations perceived as pro-Israel, the reputational and financial impacts are intensifying amidst calls to cease operations furthering the military occupation.

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