Zara recently brought out striped children’s pyjamas with an orange sheriff’s badge. Yet the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz saw it as an appalling lack of taste, interpreting the design as too close to the pyjamas worn by concentration-camp victims, and the sheriff’s badge as a thinly disguised Star of David.
This observation was quickly taken up within Israel and in the world Jewish community, calling for the withdrawal of the product from stock – which is precisely what the company did.
Now, the pyjamas worn in concentration camps had wide vertical stripes whereas these children’s pyjamas have narrow horizontal ones, reminiscent of the typical image of a French onion seller on a bicycle or the striped vests common to some naval uniforms. Furthermore, the Zara sheriff’s star has the word ‘sheriff’ written on it and the points of the star end in round circles.
Is the accusation justified, therefore?
The trouble is that this is the third spot of trouble that Zara has had with Tel Aviv. The first were handbags that had swastika-like adornments attached. Zara pointed out that they were not made with these adornments included but that a distributor in India had added them and that they are not swastikas but the ancient cross that far predates Nazism, and whose crooked arms point in the other direction.
Then came the incident that Zara produced clothing with a mixture of cotton and linen – a no-no amongst orthodox Jews, apparently, as it is considered an anti-natural hybrid.
There was also the incident in 2009 where it was forced to take down all its Christmas trees in its branches in Israel as it did not “respect Hebrew traditions.” We don’t know if it had similar problems with its branches in the Arab gulf states – or whether it even put any up there.
Zara already had 16 branches in Israel by 2009.
In each case Zara has withdrawn the offending product and offered an apology, but the question is whether the complaints are justified?