The Zara Snafu Revisited

The Spanish clothing manufacturer issued an apology on Twitter following widespread accusations of anti-Semitism because of a T-shirt that bore a yellow star uncomfortably close in design to what Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany:

We honestly apologize, it was inspired by the sheriff’s stars from the Classic Western films and is no longer in our stores.

As Bloomberg reported, the company also made the following comment about the decision to discontinue the T-shirt:

[It] has been taken out of circulation due to the potential similarity with the Star of David that has been used as a yellow star patch.

There was also this comment from Zara’s Israeli office, as reported here by 972’s Dimi Reider:

The item in question, part of the Cowboy Collection for babies, was inspired by the character of the sheriff in Wild West movies. The word ‘Sheriff’ is visible on the star at the front of the item. Nevertheless, we can understand the sensitive context and connotation that was created.

The item does not exist in Israel and as soon as the issue became clear, it was decided the product will be removed from shelves across the world and exterminated.

“Exterminated,” really? As Reider notes, Zara stuck its foot in its mouth:

The exact Hebrew word is “ויושמדו.” While it can also be translated as “will be destroyed,” hashmada is the exact word used to describe the Nazi genocidal practices – for example, Mahanot haHashmada, extermination camps. And since this is the precise issue on which the apology is being offered, few Israeli readers would miss the connotation. You’d think Zara would take the time to thumb through a thesaurus, or something.

With that by way of background, I have some thoughts to add to what I already said here, only this time not so charitable. I now think there is a serious problem the company must address, as soon as possible.

To begin with the star business, Zara’s comment that their T-shirt design was based on “Classic Western films” struck me as odd. I’ve seen a bunch of these and I don’t recall sheriff badges being yellow or six-pointed stars. Keep in mind that many of the old western movies we now consider classics, such as John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946), were in black-and-white, so the sheriff’s star would have looked … silver, not yellow. Besides, in this country we associate yellow with cowardice; it would have been a really dumb idea for a lawman in the Old West to wear a yellow badge. Wyatt Earp made sure to wear a color-coordinated outfit before heading out the O.K. Corral with his brothers and Doc Holliday?  Yeah, right.

What about resemblance to the Star of David? Did all sheriff badges back in the day have 6-pointed stars? I looked this up online and it turns out that Zara got this detail wrong too. The badges we associate with sheriffs of the Old West such as Tombstone’s John Behan had 5-pointed stars. Here is what Behan wore. Many sheriff badges today have 5-pointed stars, including here in Florida. Other states such as Texas and California use 7-pointed stars. I’ve even seen 8-pointed stars. A bit of online research will reveal 6-pointed badges consisting of isosceles not equilateral triangles. Many 6-pointed stars are enclosed in a circle like Behan’s. Finally, keep in mind that the stars on sheriff badges originally were (for obvious reasons) based on the stars on our flag, which are 5-pointed.

Okay, Zara is badly misinformed about America. What else is new? That’s not my main complaint. What’s really bothering me is that the company has yet to acknowledge that their design was a bad (colossally stupid?) idea because it brought up associations with the Holocaust. What we got from them so far is rubbish about sheriff badges in the Old West and an oh-so casual reference to the Star of David. Zara must know that neither is the real reason so many people found their T-shirt offensive.

The question is: Are Zara and its parent company Inditex in denial about the Holocaust? Say it ain’t so, Señor Ortega.

The Spanish clothing manufacturer issued an apology on Twitter following widespread accusations of anti-Semitism because of a T-shirt that bore a yellow star uncomfortably close in design to what Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany:

We honestly apologize, it was inspired by the sheriff’s stars from the Classic Western films and is no longer in our stores.

As Bloomberg reported, the company also made the following comment about the decision to discontinue the T-shirt:

[It] has been taken out of circulation due to the potential similarity with the Star of David that has been used as a yellow star patch.

There was also this comment from Zara’s Israeli office, as reported here by 972’s Dimi Reider:

The item in question, part of the Cowboy Collection for babies, was inspired by the character of the sheriff in Wild West movies. The word ‘Sheriff’ is visible on the star at the front of the item. Nevertheless, we can understand the sensitive context and connotation that was created.

The item does not exist in Israel and as soon as the issue became clear, it was decided the product will be removed from shelves across the world and exterminated.

“Exterminated,” really? As Reider notes, Zara stuck its foot in its mouth:

The exact Hebrew word is “ויושמדו.” While it can also be translated as “will be destroyed,” hashmada is the exact word used to describe the Nazi genocidal practices – for example, Mahanot haHashmada, extermination camps. And since this is the precise issue on which the apology is being offered, few Israeli readers would miss the connotation. You’d think Zara would take the time to thumb through a thesaurus, or something.

With that by way of background, I have some thoughts to add to what I already said here, only this time not so charitable. I now think there is a serious problem the company must address, as soon as possible.

To begin with the star business, Zara’s comment that their T-shirt design was based on “Classic Western films” struck me as odd. I’ve seen a bunch of these and I don’t recall sheriff badges being yellow or six-pointed stars. Keep in mind that many of the old western movies we now consider classics, such as John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946), were in black-and-white, so the sheriff’s star would have looked … silver, not yellow. Besides, in this country we associate yellow with cowardice; it would have been a really dumb idea for a lawman in the Old West to wear a yellow badge. Wyatt Earp made sure to wear a color-coordinated outfit before heading out the O.K. Corral with his brothers and Doc Holliday?  Yeah, right.

What about resemblance to the Star of David? Did all sheriff badges back in the day have 6-pointed stars? I looked this up online and it turns out that Zara got this detail wrong too. The badges we associate with sheriffs of the Old West such as Tombstone’s John Behan had 5-pointed stars. Here is what Behan wore. Many sheriff badges today have 5-pointed stars, including here in Florida. Other states such as Texas and California use 7-pointed stars. I’ve even seen 8-pointed stars. A bit of online research will reveal 6-pointed badges consisting of isosceles not equilateral triangles. Many 6-pointed stars are enclosed in a circle like Behan’s. Finally, keep in mind that the stars on sheriff badges originally were (for obvious reasons) based on the stars on our flag, which are 5-pointed.

Okay, Zara is badly misinformed about America. What else is new? That’s not my main complaint. What’s really bothering me is that the company has yet to acknowledge that their design was a bad (colossally stupid?) idea because it brought up associations with the Holocaust. What we got from them so far is rubbish about sheriff badges in the Old West and an oh-so casual reference to the Star of David. Zara must know that neither is the real reason so many people found their T-shirt offensive.

The question is: Are Zara and its parent company Inditex in denial about the Holocaust? Say it ain’t so, Señor Ortega.

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