Palestinian groups furious as Israeli jeans company Fox sets up shop in Ramallah

Activist says company 'supports occupation' and the Palestinian Authority is violating its own laws by allowing store opening to go ahead

Jerusalem

Like any successful businessman, Harel Wizel, is eager to expand his company, Fox, a popular chain of clothing shops in Israel. However, when Mr Wizel announced his growth plans in April few imagined the firm was about to open an outlet in Palestinian Ramallah.

The chain, which is now being advertised with large billboards in the Palestinian administrative capital, now plans to open a new shop in the city, which will be as a franchise.

The move recognises that fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled West Bank could be set for an economic boom, especially if John Kerry’s latest peace push gains traction.

But the decision has not pleased everyone. Several Palestinian groups are reported to be furious with the PA for allowing Fox to establish a shop, while local businessmen will be worried about the extra competition.

Zaid Shuaibi, outreach coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, said:

"Fox has stores in a number of settlements and supports Israeli occupation. it's totally inconceivable that while a growing number of Europeans are boycotting Israeli goods some Palestinian business men are helping an Israeli company do business in Ramallah.Palestinian activists will protest the shameful opening of Fox stores in Palestinian cities until they are closed down."

It is not the first time Mr Wizel and Fox have courted controversy. In 2008, the company signed up Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, for an advertising campaign. Ms Refaeli, who was reportedly paid $300,000 for wearing Fox’s clothes, avoided Israel’s compulsory military service by marrying a family friend– and thus gaining an exemption – before divorcing her husband soon after.

In one interview, Ms Refaeli, said: “I really wanted to serve in the IDF, but I don’t regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That’s just the way it is, celebrities have other needs. I hope my case has influenced the army.” The comments did not sit well with the majority of Israelis.

Fox is one of a growing number of companies targeting Ramallah. Ikea, the Swedish furniture group which is close to omnipotent in Western Europe, is reportedly being encouraged to set up shop in the Palestinian administrative capital. The Israelis already have an Ikea in which to spend the weekends, near Tel Aviv.

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