Urban Outfitters has become involved in yet another Palestine-related fashion controversy, this time over a t-shirt featuring a Palestinian kid with a kufiya around his neck, cradling a weapon, with the word "Victimized." Thanks to Hisham for alerting me to this report from Haaretz (May 22).
Fashion wars / U.S. store pulls 'pro-violence' Palestinian T-shirt
T-shirt sold by Urban Outfitters showed Palestinian youth carrying automatic rifle, map of West Bank, Gaza.
By Alison Avigayil Ramer
Popular U.S. clothing store Urban Outfitters has halted sales of a T-shirt apparently supporting Palestinian violence that has sparked outrage in the American Jewish community.
The T-shirt, created by Los Angeles-based designer "Fashion Jive," depicts a young Palestinian boy carrying an M-16 rifle, over the word "Victimized." The T-shirt also shows the Palestinian flag, a map of the Palestinian territories and a small white dove. The item sold online for $25.
"If Urban Outfitters is good at something, it is getting publicity," remarked Ami Cohen, works for American Apparel in Tel Aviv. "This company has a history of coming into conflict with
Several years ago, the company played on the "Jewish American Princess" stereotype by selling T-shirts with the slogan "Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl," surrounded by dollar signs and
In 2007, it again came into conflict with Jewish and pro-Israel consumers for selling versions of a traditional Arab headdress, the kaffiyeh, as an "anti-war scarf."
Although the firm's CEO, Dick Heyne, argued that the company had not intended "to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism" by selling the kaffiyeh, some argue that selling of the "Victimized" T-shirt does just that.
"Of course this T-shirt is supporting terrorism," said Leah Weiss, a fashion designer who recently immigrated to Israel. "I've joined a Facebook group to boycott Urban Outfitters and get rid of their clothes. I will never shop there again."
The T-shirt also sparked debate among Jewish bloggers, who discussed the elements of violence depicted in the T-shirt. JBlog Central reported that one surfer had branded the item of clothing a "brutal, bloody Jew-hating tee shirt."
Stacey Strober, Urban Outfitter's Store Operations Manager, said in response that the shirt had been removed from shops and the online store, and that the company had never intended to cause upset.
"Please understand that we do not buy items to provoke controversy or to intentionally offend. We have pulled this item in all of our locations and will no longer be selling it online either."
Others, however, expressed support for the T-shirt and its message.
"All fashion is political in nature. Since most people today aren't directly involved in politics, fashion is a good way to reach people and raise their awareness about the Israeli occupation," argued Sami Zeibak, a Palestinian fashion journalist living in Tel Aviv.
"Jewish people should not be offended by this because it is not anti-Jewish and not anti-Israel, it is anti-occupation."
Check out the response (May 21) to all the criticism by Rick Klotz, who owns Freshjive, which produced the t-shirt. Klotz in particular takes on the (predictable) claims that the shirt is anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli, and pro-terrorism. Below I reproduce some of his comments:
"This shirt shows various Palestinian kids with guns. I believe the image can be interpreted in many different ways, but some people are choosing to jump to the conclusion that it means that I am somehow "jew-hating".
And in any case, is it not simply true that some Palestinian kids have become child soldiers due to the ongoing battle between Palestine and Israel?
There is a stylized version of the word "VICTIMIZED" at the bottom of the design. Is it not simply true that some Palestinians and especially Palestinian children are victims of this terrible conflict? I am of the opinion they are.
So where does "OPENLY ANTI-ISRAEL", "GLORIFIES PALESTINIAN TERRORISM AND CHILD ABUSE", "VICTIMIZING JEWS", and "BRUTAL BLOODY JEW HATING T SHIRT" come from? Is this the SPIN some of you choose to place on our design statement to DEMONIZE us?....
Some people criticized the image for being in poor taste, and suggested a more positive graphic would have been more appropriate. I say if you think it is in poor taste, don't buy it. My business deals in the graphic arts and I believe that one of the highest purposes of art is to spark discussion by challenging people to think in new ways about serious issues.
The entire point of this graphic, and other graphics, is definitely to push an opinion and a topic I would like our customers to pay some attention to (rather than blindly buy our product for fashion and aesthetic reasons). To inspire thinking and create a public dialog on such topics is extremely important, and discussions from both sides of the fence are extremely beneficial to come to realizations and hopefully mutual understandings. Respectful dialog between people who disagree is essential to the health of a democratic culture."
Klotz also calls attention to other t-shirt items produced by Freshjive. Hawblawg readers may be interested in these items, The Good Old Days! line:
and the somewhat less aesthetically interesting Peace in the Middle East line: