An Israeli clothing company has raised hackles with an ad starring supermodel Bar Refaeli and others that equates women discarding traditional Muslim garb with freedom.
Users took to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to slam the campaign, which went online Tuesday, claiming it disparages Muslims — especially Iranians — and women. Following the uproar, Refaeli deleted the ad from her online platforms and another participant apologized, but the company refused to budge.
In the video, published by the Israeli basic clothing firm Hoodies, Refaeli can be seen wearing the niqab, Muslim headwear that covers the hair and entire face besides the eyes, along with the message “Is this Iran?” in Hebrew.
She then takes the niqab off and discards it to reveal colorful, basic clothing underneath. The ad ends with the message “Freedom is Basic” in English.
The campaign included billboards showing Refaeli in the niqab with the “Is this Iran?” message. The full video appeared in TV spots — with several different versions starring Refaeli or models Stav Strashko or Tahounia Rubel, Muslim reality TV star Shams Marie Abomokh, or ultra-Orthodox journalist Melech Zilbershlag — and on the company’s social media platforms.
“Our new campaign is meant to inspire anyone, regardless of religious, race or gender, to choose their path and express their freedom,” Hoodies wrote on Facebook. “We decided to give the stage to inspiring characters in Israeli society, each one of whom decided to release themselves from their chains and express themselves.”
But users weren’t impressed.
This has to be the most ignorant and racist ad I’ve ever seen and I can’t believe a whole company approved this.. I’m disgusted and at a loss of words. pic.twitter.com/oiY1XB27EH
— mariam (@fancydaisiesx) October 30, 2018
“A disgusting campaign,” commented a Muslim woman in Hebrew. “It doesn’t have any message of equality and freedom of choice.”
“I feel threatened because of your ad and I choose not to buy from you, it’s my freedom and my choice,” commented another user. “And I’m happy [your opinions] don’t represent all Jews.”
Arab Israeli social media personality Nas Daily said the ad had angered him since “even if there’s a little bit of truth in the ad… it is not okay to disrespect an entire country, an entire gender or an entire religion just to sell a T-shirt.”
I normally don't react to things like this.But when I find that it's a coordinated nationwide campaign, I can only ask myself: "how did so many people find this acceptable?" And this is why I find this very important to talk about.I understand the comany probably just wants media publicity, that's why I hid everything about the brand itself, but it is a clothing brand. INSTAGRAM: @NasDailyGROUP: Nas Daily Global
Posted by Nas Daily on Wednesday, 31 October 2018
Criticism wasn’t limited to Israel, though, as Muslim women around the world and even Iranians slammed it as inappropriate.
Some said it was “ignorant and racist,” while others called it Islamophobic.
But some defended it, with one user commenting on YouTube, “I am Iranian and don’t get angry watching this ad. I think it is good they highlighted Iran’s human right abuses on forcing women to cover up. That should be the real story here. For me as a Iranian covering up is NOT Freedom.”
A commercial launched by the Israeli super model @BarRefaeli pushing the Islamophopic narrative of the oppressed woman taking off her hijab and get liberated.
In my society women who wear a hijab are just as free as every other women. So U know where to push ur freedom propaganda pic.twitter.com/Gp2qhURCRs
— Don Abdo ⚜️ (@Abd_HajYahia) October 30, 2018
After the criticism, Refaeli deleted the ad from her Instagram page and other online accounts.
Shams Marie Abomokh, a Muslim woman who participated in the Israeli version of the Big Brother reality show and who wears the hijab, posted on Facebook that she supports freedom for anyone to wear what they want but opposes religious, social or political coercion.
She claimed that the ad had been misunderstood and that she viewed it as protesting Israel’s treatment of Arabs, Muslims, Ethiopians, and other minorities, while Israelis “always boast that they are way better than the Iranian regime.”
Tahounia Rubel, who was also featured in the ad, is a model of Ethiopian origin. Stav Strashko is a transgender model. Melech Zilbershlag is a male ultra-Orthodox social media personality and journalist.
The company pulled the campaign’s billboards less than two days after putting them up, claiming it had planned to do so all along, but kept the video up on its social media platforms.