International sportswear brand Reebok has launched a special edition sneaker to commemorate the 68th anniversary of what Israel calls its “Independence Day.”
The shoe, with the words “Israel 68” emblazoned on the heel, “will be sold on Independence Day in an auction to take place on the Reebok Facebook page,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
Moshe Sinai, the CEO of Reebok Israel, told the newspaper that “these sneakers were to be a one-time celebratory release as a collector’s item in Israel and the world.”
But by celebrating Israel’s founding, Reebok, which is owned by Germany’s Adidas Group, is also helping to whitewash the historic and ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people.
Starting in late 1947 and through 1948, Zionist militias ethnically cleansed Palestinians in a series of well-planned operations.
In what is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe, some 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and hundreds of towns and villages were destroyed in what became Israel.
To this day, Israel denies Palestinian refugees and their children and grandchildren their right to return home solely because they are not Jews.
Meanwhile, for almost half a century, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have lived under a brutal Israeli military occupation which denies them the most basic rights, while Israeli settlers steal and colonize their land in violation of international law.
Nakba denial is, in effect, Israel’s official policy. The government penalizes institutions that commemorate it.
At a time when other international companies, including Orange and Veolia, are fleeing from Israel because of the reputational damage of doing business with a major human rights abuser, it is daring for Reebok and its parent Adidas to so closely associate their products with Israel’s blood-soaked past and present.
But this is not the first time Adidas Group has helped Israel whitewash its image. In 2012, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) called for a boycott of the company over its sponsorship of Israel’s so-called “Jerusalem Marathon.”
The BNC, the steering group of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, said the marathon, which is backed by Israeli authorities, “illegally passes through occupied East Jerusalem and serves to strengthen Israel’s grip on occupied Palestinian territory.”
At that time, Adidas refused to pull its backing, but this year, the American brand New Balance was the marathon’s “official running shoe.”
Attacks on athletes
Adidas is a major sponsor of sporting events around the world so it is particularly ironic that an Adidas brand is so visibly endorsing Israel despite its relentless attacks on Palestinian athletes and sports facilities.
Israel’s abuses have led to growing calls for a sporting boycott of Israel similar to the one imposed on apartheid South Africa.
Adidas claims that it “recognizes its corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the importance of showing that we are taking the necessary steps to fulfill this social obligation.”
One way to do that would be not to trample on Palestinians by openly celebrating their oppressors.
Update: 10 May
Reebok has canceled and repudiated plans for the “Israel 68” sneaker.