When America’s largest supermarket chain, Walmart, advertised an Israel Defence Forces children’s party costume there was outrage and the stores withdrew the fancy dress outfit. That was three years ago, but now the IDF military costume is being advertised again, this time on Amazon, which has also come under fire for selling it.
Now the pressure group Jewish Voices for Peace has joined a global campaign which accuses Amazon of double standards and “profiting” from Palestinian children’s pain.
“Each year the Israeli military arrests and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children,” explained JVP’s Communications Strategist, Granate Kim. “Three out of four of these children experience physical violence during arrest or interrogation.” Incredibly, she added, Amazon is profiting from the pain of Palestinian children. “Amazon sells Israel Defence Force costumes for kids, enabling the celebration of the violent oppression of Palestinian children, even though its own policy prohibits products that glorify hatred and violence.”
One angry Amazon reviewer gave the website a poor one star rating and stormed, “Might as well sell a Hitler outfit for children as well!” before calling it “utterly insensitive.” According to another reviewer, this is a, “Great costume to pretend colonising a certain people. My kid can now pretend he’s killing innocent people. Seriously how appalling is this??”
The khaki-coloured costume includes trousers, shirt, belt and red hat and features Hebrew writing. The design is a replica of the uniforms worn by the Israeli military.
The website appears to be trying to cash in on Halloween, a Western Christian festival held on 31 October which some believe has its roots in Celtic paganism. “When Halloween time rolls around, make this item part of your child’s complete ensemble,” says the Amazon blurb. The product description goes even further: “Lets Defend the Country! Be part of the Elite IDF Military with this realistic looking costume! Set packaged in a durable zippered garment bag and the costume is available in 4 different sizes: Toddler 2, Toddler 4, Small, Medium and Large.”
JVP is now urging its members and supporters to sign a petition urging Amazon to follow its own policy and stop selling the fancy dress outfit for children. It is being asked to follow the example of other retailers like Walmart which stopped selling such outrageous costumes.
Granate Kim said:
Imagine being a Palestinian child and seeing another child dressed up as an IDF soldier at school or Halloween party
adding: “The shock and fear would be devastating. In contrast Amazon doesn’t even need these sales; its CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, and it’s likely the costume only continues to be listed because the company hasn’t come under pressure. That’s where we come in.”
Walmart removed the same costume from its website and stores after coming under pressure in 2015. Earlier this year, Amazon set its own precedent when it removed white supremacist paraphernalia from its website after being flooded with complaints.
Many Halloween traditions, such as wearing masks, fancy dress, telling ghost stories and carving vegetables into lanterns, originate from Celtic rituals in Britain. The Christian Church contributed to Halloween celebrations during the later Middle Ages by offering to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for cakes or treats.
The sight of an Israeli army uniform holds no pleasure or cause to celebrate in the land where Jesus was born. Palestinians and their children in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip need no cheap stunts such as fake IDF uniforms to remind them that they are the victims of a brutal military occupation. Amazon’s executives might like to give that some consideration, and remove the offensive article from their website without delay.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.