Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Urban Outfitters Controversy: Palestinian T (and Freshjive's Arafat T)

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
shopping bags.

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:


RAMI said...

Don't bow down to racist zionist pro israel pressure
palestinians are being snuffed out by these racist jews
take a stand
put out some more palestine shirts
you will get alot of sales and support
what if you were born palestinian?
you just might be in the next life...

Anonymous said...

Too late. Urban Outfitter dumped the line. I saw a shirt with Rachel Corrie on it that said "dead white european female." Not bad.

Steve Rosenbach said...

Hahahahahahahaha! You've gotta be kidding!

That t-shirt design is as offensive to freedom-loving people as a t-shirt with a photo of the WTC towers being destroyed would be to Americans.

It's also not very truthful. In fact, kids in Palestine only *pose* with rifles and other weapons. Then the Hamas thugs who actually *use* the weapons use the kids as human shields in front of them as they approach the Israeli border to try to do their thing.

Yeah, it's a great design, alright!

Palistinians are victims, but of their fellow Arabs, and most of all, of their own attitudes and their own Jew-hate.

That being said, it's a free country here in the US, and if you want something like that crap, buy it - or make your own.


azam said...

So where is the freedom of speech now ??? when they make fun of muslims and their prophets its freedom of speech but when it comes to them they are like oh what a terrible thing , its anti jewish or crap like that .. lousy B*****ds !!!

Julia said...

I'd love to get the "Victimized" T-shirt. The whole controversy over this only proves that zionists suck ass and are really big whiners. You know that the Jewish Defense League protested outside of Freshjive? (They are the dictionary definition of trash, so who's surprised?)

lovesmesumcake said...

The main atrocity here is that the kid is clearly holding an AK-47 assault rifle, not an M-16.

ThomasJeromeNewton said...

how about a comment on how palestenian americans feel embracedby these tshirts. both christian, muslim & druze. At least a Mizahri.

oh and urban outfitters get the really ironic iconic with Farfour© and Nahoul© che guevara like prints.

Anonymous said...

Support Palestinian non-violence! I am a Palestinian American. My country is no longer listed on current Rand McNally maps nor is its flag being represenated. Some of these shirts are offensive to me because my people are one of the most repressed nations is the world at this time. This conflict is serious and needs to be represented in a very specific manner that is conducive to portraying the Palestinians as a self respected nation. It is simply not true that Hamas leaders uphold children to block shots. (If it is find me the source) It is true that Hamas leaders dug under the Israeli imposed wall and captured an Israeli soldier, It is however true as well that the Israeli military in turn captured 9,200 Palestinians. Much of which were women and chilfren civilians. The Palestinians returned the Israeli soldier unscathed. To this day Israel still holds these Palestinians captive. This is yet another example of how disproportionate reactions on behalf of the Israeli military can be. The killing needs to end. But with who and when? Support a non-violent Palestinian movement! go to

Anonymous said...

all i see is a palestinian kid trying to defend his homeland.....where's the problem???

Anonymous said...

Hej.. I was thinkin of buying the shirt called peace in the middle east from feshjive... But i want to know somethin about it..
Does anybody know if the shirt is made for support israel or palesten? or is it made as a natrual shirt in the conflict. I Must say that im not with israel or palesten in this conflict.. Im only supporting peace for both parts.. So I want to know if I buy the peace in the middleeast shirt, can it maybe effect jewish people negativly if I wear it or will it effect palestenians negativly? Like I said before im not taking sides, I just want to know it before I maybe buy the shirt...