Anti-Israel activists at Zara can’t answer why they’re protesting against the clothing shop

One of the demonstrators wrongly claimed the retailer was “funding” Israel


TOPSHOT - This photograph taken on December 17, 2023, in Brussels shows the window of a Zara clothes shop with red paint and stickers stuck on it during a demonstration calling for a immediate and permanent ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (Photo by HATIM KAGHAT / AFP) (Photo by HATIM KAGHAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Last weekend, anti-Israel protesters in Reading trying to shut down a local Zara outlet revealed they weren’t completely sure about the reasons for their demonstration.

Joseph Cohen, a Youtuber on the channel Israel Advocacy Movement, attended the demonstration this week to ask protesters why they were marching against the retail clothing chain but found that most did not know the reason.

Cohen filmed demonstrators bearing signs that read “Stop the genocide” and “Ceasefire now” and can be seen marching around the store in The Oracle Shopping Centre in Reading, shouting “Zara Zara you can’t hide, you support the genocide”.

“Can someone tell me why we’re protesting Zara?” Cohen can be heard asking behind the camera as he follows protesters around the shop. “Anyone?”

“Because innocent kids are dying,” one protester said to which Cohen replied: “What’s that got to do with Zara?”

Another protester chimed in that it was because Zara "is funding them", a claim which Cohen flatly refuted.

“Zara said something disgusting about Palestine”, one man said. When Cohen inquired as to what the fashion label said, the man replied “Go and ask them”.

Zara came under fire earlier this month for launching an ad campaign that critics believed evoked imagery reminiscent of the Israel-Hamas war, particularly the scenes of rubble in Gaza. The campaign, called “The Jacket”, featured model Kristen McMenamy standing before a body-sized box amid mannequins wrapped in white cloth, which critics said resembled recent photos taken in Gaza of families holding their deceased loved ones in a white cloth material.

The retailer issued an apology for the photos, saying that viewers “saw in them something far from what was intended when they were created.”

According to the statement released on Instagram, the company said the idea for the campaign had originated in July and the scenes were shot in September, prior to the October 7 attacks on Israel, which appeared to be a point of confusion for protesters at the Zara in Reading. The campaign featured images of unfinished sculptures in an art studio, its purpose being to showcase “craftmade garments in an artistic context,” the company said.

At the end of his short video, Cohen clarified the matter and denounced the misguided protests: “Why on earth would any fashion brand troll Palestinians and mock the dead? It’s insane. It would be the worst advertising campaign in history. And yet these low IQ fools genuinely believe that’s what Zara’s doing.”

“Actually, I tell a lie – half of them didn’t even know why they were there,” Cohen said.

In an email to the JC, Cohen explained that “Only two people we spoke to knew why they were protesting Zara; the rest were aimlessly marching around the store.”

"I've been to enough of these protests to expect this level of ignorance, but I think it's important to add that it isn't just ignorance, it's more sinister. At its core, this is antisemitism. Many of these protesters believe that Jews wield such influence over major corporations that they use them to advance or support Zionism.”

Cohen founded the Campaign Against Antisemitism before leaving to form the Israel Advocacy Movement in 2015, when he determined that the greater threat to Jews is anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment. He posts videos in which he confronts anti-Israel activists, engages in discussion with Muslim and Palestinian community members, and educates his viewers on antisemitism, Israel, and Zionism.

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