Reebok tramples on Palestinians with “Israel 68” sneaker

The “Israel 68” special edition sneaker from Reebok was announced in The Jerusalem Post.

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.

Ethnic cleansing

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.

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Comments

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...will/would the California anti-BDS legislation being considered prohibit the state from buying Addidas products because they pulled their sponsorship of the marathon? Particularly when Addidas:

"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.' "

That sounds like a withdrawal of business activity from Israel for moral cause to me. Whether it is or not, someone in charge of deciding which companies are participating in BDS might think so. No more state contracts.

The downstream point (constitutional issues aside) of the current wave of anti-BDS legislation is that it dissuades business from STARTING operations in Israel's tiny market because should a business withdraw for some reason it is at risk of losing any business with the vastly larger market of CA state business. That's completely counterproductive from the pro-Israel PoV.

This suggests an even larger point that Israel is out of options when it comes to combating BDS and maintaining the historic narrative. Going in, anti-BDS legislation is unconstitutional and anti-American. Coming out, it can only have the opposite of its intended effect (it's impossible to craft punishment legislation that does not have a before-the-fact risk-increasing deterrent effect).

Lose-lose for Israel. Win-win/clear path for BDS.

Possibly OT, but I think this a perfect illustration of the futility of anti-BDS legislation. Nature (and right) is going to take its course.

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Commemorative sneakers for instituting Apartheid and stealing the property of 750,000+ people. Doesn't get any sicker than this. And I agree Larry, this will only add fuel to the BDS movment.

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I'm not usually one who cares about running shoes, but these sneakers look amazing! Wish I could get pair :(

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You shouldn't have any trouble locating a pair. There's bound to be a glut on the market, with prices well below manufacturer's cost. A classic case of clearing out unwanted merchandise- the Apartheid Edition.

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It was nice to know you but we can no longer do business together.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.