22 Oct, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

Under pressure from Arab-American groups and anti-Israel consumers on social media, the giant retail chain Walmart has stopped selling an IDF soldier’s Halloween costume for kids.

Walmart first came under fire for selling the costume IDF uniform, which comes with a toy Uzi gun, on Twitter and the company’s Facebook page. Users claimed that the costume was offensive to Arab- and Palestinian-Americans and demanded a boycott of Walmart.

One customer wrote on Walmart’s website, “Might as well sell a Hitler outfit for children as well!”

Another post called the costume “extremely offensive and highly insensitive, not only to the millions of Palestinian-Americans that shop in your stores, but to anyone who has an ounce of humanity in their bodies.”’

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee President Samer Khalaf said in a statement, “The Israeli forces are responsible for the continued death and occupation of the Palestinian people. Such a symbol of fear, violence and a long history of dispossession should not be used for entertainment purposes.”

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He added, “Selling merchandise which mocks Arabs, or any other race or ethnicity, must not be tolerated. These images do nothing but perpetuate racist tropes that have long been used to demonize, otherize and alienate Arab communities throughout history.”

As a result of the outcry, Walmart removed the costume from their store.

Interestingly, Walmart continues to offer costumes which might be considered much more “demonizing” and directly offensive to Arab communities. One of them, the Dictator Military Jacket Movie Halloween Costume, is a nod to the Sasha Baron Cohen (better known as Borat) movie “The Dictator”, which the Internet Movie Database describes as “The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.”

Screenshot of The Dictator Movie Halloween Costume from Walmart.com.

Screenshot of The Dictator Movie Halloween Costume from Walmart.com.

Cohen plays the starring role of a tyrannical, sexist, anti-Semitic dictator of a fictional Arab country who openly supports al-Qaeda and is desperate to develop nuclear weapons with which to destroy Israel. Unsurprisingly, “The Dictator” has been accused of reinforcing negative Arab stereotypes. Nadia Tonova, director of the National Network for Arab American Communities, wrote that the movie bought into the Hollywood clichés of depicting all Arabs as “terrorists, dictators, sheikhs, oil tycoons or Bedouins.”

However, the costume, which clearly ridicules Arab leaders, has drawn no criticism from the same public which raged at Walmart over the IDF costume, calling it “offensive” and “immoral” and “a mockery of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”.

Walmart also sells US military costumes, Navy SEAL costumes, skimpy women’s army costumes, and police uniform costumes. 

The IDF costume is still available on Amazon, but perhaps not for long, considering the apparent influence of anti-Israel consumers.