Online retail giants Amazon and eBay have come under fire, both in the United States and Canada, for selling T-shirts and other items that call for a “free Palestine.”
A search of “Palestine T-shirt” on amazon.ca yields 383 results. Some call for a “Free Gaza,” while others feature a raised fist in the Palestinian colours of black, green and red, emblazoned with the slogan, “Free Palestine.” Others add the words, “End the Israeli Occupation.”
eBay offers similar apparel.
Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), told The CJN that his organization has contacted both Amazon and eBay. Amazon is looking into the matter, he said.
“We’re hoping the best outcome will be that they will remove the products,” Benlolo said. “I believe they will in the end.”
Much of the Palestine-themed apparel is being sold by third-party vendors. Benlolo said online retailers should be policing those vendors.
The development came just as Sears and Walmart both pledged to remove similar items from their websites, following a June 6 story in the Jerusalem Post, which revealed that Sears was selling the apparel on its American website.
The product description apparently encouraged shoppers to “make a statement about the Arab-Israeli conflict with this powerful design,” the Post reported.
In a statement to The CJN, a Sears spokesperson said: “These items were being sold by a third-party seller, via the Sears Marketplace. They have been removed.”
The company said it is “being unfairly singled out,” given that the same items are available on Amazon, Walmart.com and eBay.
“It’s very important to note that we serve a broad base of customers around the country and around the world, and employ people around the world, including nearly 200 in Israel,” Sears stated.
In a June 6 letter to Brandon Stranzl, executive chairman of Sears Canada, Benlolo said he was “horrified” to learn that sears.com was selling at least a dozen types of “Free Palestine” T-shirts on its website.
“As you are aware, Gaza is exclusively under Hamas control, while the so-called ‘occupation’ is a tragedy of the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to negotiate peace with Israel,” Benlolo wrote.
He noted that many of the shirts have an image of a fist. “Is Sears Canada promoting violence through this type of symbolism?” he asked, adding that the Jewish community “would be hard pressed to shop at Sears until this matter is corrected and an apology is provided.”
Benlolo was “pleased” by Stranzl’s response that “Sears Canada does not and would not ever put anything like that on our website.”
Stranzl confirmed that Sears Canada and its American counterpart, Sears Holdings, are “totally separate.”
In an update, FSWC said Walmart had joined sears.com in removing all “Free Palestine” items from their Canadian and American websites.
The CJN’s queries to Amazon and eBay were not answered by press time.
A search of “Israel T-shirt” on amazon.ca produces 1,620 listings. The company sells a wide variety of T-shirts adorned with the emblem of the Israel Defence Forces, the Israeli Air Force, the country’s flag, other Israel-themed symbols and the Star of David.
“Those items are not projecting hate, or propaganda,” Benlolo explained.
He said some of the “Free Palestine” T-shirts showed a map of Israel. “That’s incorrect. They’re essentially calling for the cleansing and destruction of the State of Israel.”