Walmart Pulls IDF Children’s Costume

(Screenshot of Walmart online shopping website.)

On 27 October, the retail giant Walmart withdrew two items from its Halloween costume department after outrage erupted on social media over the “Israel Soldier Costume for Kids” and “Sheikh Fagin Nose” products. Following complaints from the public and organizations such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Walmart removed the items from its website four days before Halloween.

For just $27.44, online customers could purchase a red beret and green uniform, complete with embroidered Hebrew insignia of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the jacket. Gazan writer and editor Refaat Alareer commented to the Electronic Intifada in the following terms: “I am sure my orphan niece and nephew would be terrorized seeing the kid wearing the Israeli khaki uniform which is the reason for the death of their beloved dad.” Alareer’s family lost several members during the summer 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. Potential online customers slammed Walmart in the review section for the costume. “Your little one can now go to his friend’s house, and take over their bedroom, and all of their toys and claim that God has given him/her the right to take it,” commented one.

Walmart retailed the costume, supplied by the New Jersey company Wholesale Halloween Costume, whose own product description says: “Defend your Jewish heritage proudly by wearing the Israeli Soldier Boy’s Costume! The Israeli Defense Forces have a mission to protect the land and the people of Israel from outside threats with low casualties, and to avoid waging war if at all possible.” As JPS went to press, the costume was still available on Amazon’s website from the retailer Dress Up America.

In an odd combination of anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism, Walmart also offered the “Sheikh Fagin Nose” as a costume accessory. The product photo depicts a man wearing a white ghutra, or headdress, whose latex “hook nose” is described as “perfect for an Arab Sheikh.” Identified as “the Jew” in Charles Dicken’s novel Oliver Twist, Fagin is a distasteful character whose large prosthetic nose in a 1948 film adaptation popularized such a stereotypical representation. In an apparent attempt to make it less offensive, Amazon has removed any reference to Jews and as of this writing, carries the product as the “Sultan Nose.”

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A tweet pointing out the racism of the “Sheikh Fagin Nose” accessory. (27 October, Twitter)
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Tweet from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urging Walmart to remove the costumes from its website. (27 October, Twitter)

Published in each issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies and updated regularly on Palestine Square, this section strives to capture the tenor and content of popular conversations related to the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Increasingly, these conversations are held on new and dynamic platforms unbound by traditional media. Therefore, items presented in this section are from a variety of sources and have been selected because they either have gone viral or represent a significant cultural moment or trend.

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