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Every year, racist anti-Arab costumes find their way into the marketplace in America that are sold to children to use for the annual holiday celebration of Halloween. This year costumes included a racist face of an Arab and an Israeli military uniform carrying an Uzi sub-machine gun symbolizing Israel’s military terrorism against Palestinian civilians
By Ray Hanania
This week as the world prepared to pretend to honor the 20th year anniversary of the assassination by an Israeli terrorist of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for making a pace with the Palestinians, retail store shelves were filling up with two children’s costumes for the Halloween season.
The first was a gruesome looking hooked-nose face of an “Arab sheik.” That’s not to say some Arab sheiks are not tyrants, murderers and spineless cowards in the face of rising Israeli terrorism against civilians. But for most Americans who don’t distinguish between good and bad in the Arab World and only see bad, the costume reinforced growing racial stereotypes against Christian and Muslim Arabs. It also brings back memories of the anti-Semitism of the “Hook Nosed Jew” Fagin and others used to terrorize Jews throughout the West and Europe.
The second costume is the uniform of the Israeli military and a plastic Uzi submachine gun that was being marketed to children, at the very same time that Israeli soldiers are shooting and killing children on the streets of occupied Palestine.
Fortunately, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which has been turned upside down nationally by extremist attacks over the years from within the community, managed to produce a press release denouncing the racist costumes through one of its chapters in Michigan. ADC National, injured and disabled by community divisions, is stumbling nationally although it has maintained only one strong and effective base true to the mission of championing the civil rights of Arabs in America. Without the Detroit, Michigan chapter, ADC would not exist or be able to champion any civil rights power.
Still, one crippled voice is better than the alternative. None.
Acting out of a history of civil rights honor, ADC Michigan Midwest Director Fatin Abdrabboh sent a letter to the largest retailer of the racist Arab costume, Walmart, urging them to remove it. Walmart immediately removed the hated costumes from their stores across the country and other retailers began to follow suit.
Here is the letter:
October 27, 2015
5851 Mercury Drive
Dearborn, MI 48126
RE: Racist Halloween costumes sold on Walmart.com
Dear General Manager:
I am writing to you on behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Michigan Regional Office (ADC-Michigan), the country’s largest Arab-American organization.
ADC has protected the Arab-American community for thirty five years against defamation, discrimination, racism, and stereotyping. Southeast Michigan is home to one of the largest concentrations of Arabs and Muslims outside of the Middle East. We are reaching out as a strong customer base of Walmart to express our concern regarding racist Halloween costumes sold on Walmart.com. Not only are the costumes concerned detrimental to promoting diversity, a tenet Walmart claims to uphold, they also actively promote anti-Arab bigotry in America.
ADC Michigan strongly condemns Walmart’s decision to sell an “Israeli Soldier costume for Kids.” Hardly more than one year has passed since “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s attacks on Gaza in the summer of 2014 which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, devastated Palestinian infrastructure, and left 100,000 Palestinians homeless. In the time period following the 2014 bombardment of Gaza, Israel has continued to use lethal force against Palestinians.
During the last month, more than 50 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces, police officers and Israeli citizens. More than 2,000 have also been injured and more than 600 imprisoned. Many of those killed, injured, or imprisoned have been children. The IDF is a symbol of violence and fear for Palestinians around the world, many of whom have lost their homes and been victims of violence at the hands of Israeli soldiers.
Moreover, the demographics that your store serves include not only Palestinian-Americans, but also a sizable number of Lebanese-Americans from South Lebanon who have been particularly impacted by the IDF and continue to be so.
A children’s costume depicting a symbol of fear, violence and a long history of dispossession is no laughing matter. Walmart’s decision to sell such an item is irresponsible at best. An Israeli soldier costume is highly offensive to Arab-Americans, particularly those who have had family members, including children, killed by Israeli soldiers.
ADC Michigan also strongly condemns Walmart’s decision to sell a variety of “Arab” costumes including an Arab “Sheik Fagin Nose” costume with a stereotypically long Semitic nose.
The glorification of Israeli soldiers juxtaposed with the mockery of Arab people promotes an anti-Arab racism that is all too common in America. The webpage suggests that the nose is “perfect for an Arab Sheik,” perpetuating classic racist tropes that have long been used to demonize, otherwize, and alienate Arab communities throughout history.
Not only is this racism offensive, but it can lead to hate crimes against Arab-Americans. Just last week, an Arab man was stabbed in Brooklyn, NY simply for being Arab.
According to authorities, one of the attackers stated: “I’m going to stab you because you’re Arabic and deserve it.”
Hate crimes against Arab-Americans and other communities of color are on the rise. This rise in bigotry is a serious problem in America that is exacerbated by the xenophobic rhetoric espoused by the media and politicians. Walmart’s decision to sell racist costumes acts to further affirm and normalize this racism.
ADC strongly requests Walmart remove the offensive costuming, including the Israeli Soldier Costume for Kids and the Sheik Fagin Nose, and issue a public statement explaining why each of these costumes is morally wrong. Please know that members of the Arab and Muslim community here had planned a humanitarian effort to include a very large purchase at your store.
Ironically, the very people this costume damages are the ones who intended to buy over 50 gift cards at $500 each for Middle Eastern refugee families relocating in Southeast Michigan. Please see the attached flyer for the publicized relief efforts purchase that will likely no longer occur at your store. At the very least, if the aforementioned issue is not remedied, we will take this large humanitarian endeavor to another business that is mindful of its customers’ sensitivities.
ADC requests a formal apology over the retail of these items along with an immediate meeting with Walmart representatives. Please give this important matter the proper attention it deserves.
It’s nice to know there is at least one voice effectively fighting for the civil rights of Arabs, based in Detroit, Michigan, and doing it for the benefit of everyone regardless or race, religion or national origin.
Good job Fatina Abdrabboh and ADC Michigan.
Halloween is not without its controversies. Many in the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities do not allow their children to participate in Halloween because of its tendency to promote evil images, devilish stereotypes and costumes, and is associated with ancient pagan rituals celebrating the devil.
But for most American children, Halloween helps define their outlook on life. Halloween costumes depict what is good and what is bad. The children learn it from an early age and associate with the pleasure of receiving candy treats during the “Trick or Treat” revelry.
Children need to have fun. They just don’t need fun that reinforces racist caricatures of other people or violence that is already far more int his world than we can handle.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906