On 9 May, Reebok Israel announced a limited-edition sneaker commemorating what Israel calls Independence Day. The sneaker displays Israel’s national colors and features the words “Israel 68” on the heel to mark the country’s sixty-eight years of existence. The shoe, first announced on the company’s
Facebook page, was promoted in the Jerusalem Post by Reebok Israel CEO Moshe Sinai, who revealed that it would be auctioned on the company’s Facebook page on 12 May.
The Electronic Intifada and other outlets seized the story, disseminating it across social media. Twitter and Facebook erupted, with posts alternately praising and condemning Reebok and its parent company, Adidas Group. While there was frenzy to start bidding on the shoes in some quarters, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists called for a boycott of Reebok and Adidas, reminding the companies of Israel’s attacks on Palestinian athletes in particular.
The next day, Reebok Israel retracted its sneaker rollout and claimed that there had been a miscommunication. In an email to the Electronic Intifada, a spokesperson from Reebok’s U.S. headquarters stated that “the shoe was a one-off initiative from one of our consumers,” adding that “Reebok would like to distance itself from the shoe.” In a similar vein, Reebok Israel released a statement indicating that the shoe was the work of an independent designer and “should not be presented as a product by the company’s international brand.” It was, the statement added, a “onetime celebratory release.”
For its critics, the shoe design celebrated one of the most painful episodes in Palestinian history, the expulsion of Palestinians from their land during the 1948 Nakba. Gaza Coordinator of the BDS National Committee Abdulrahman Abunahel told the Electronic Intifada, “Celebrating the destruction of Palestinian society and the uprooting of the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people, as Reebok has done, must be among the most unethical, insensitive and irresponsible acts of complicity any corporation can do.” Others took to Twitter and Facebook to share their disdain.
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