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US retailers under fire over Israeli, Arab costumes

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New York: US retail giant Wal-Mart has withdrawn from sale an Israeli soldier’s costume for children and a fake “Arab” nose ahead of Halloween, after an outcry from civil liberties groups that the outfits are offensive and racist.

But the costumes were still being advertised today by other retailers, including Amazon and eBay, leading Arab and Muslim groups in America to demand their immediate withdrawal.

Renewed violence in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict has killed at least 60 Palestinians, nine Israelis and one Arab-Israeli in the last three weeks.

Campaign groups say the costumes are not only racist, but could fuel hate crimes against Arab-Americans.

The United States celebrates Halloween on Saturday when children dress up in costumes and go trick or treating. Adult costume parties are also popular nationwide.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomed Wal-Mart’s decision to withdraw the costumes and joined other pressure groups in calling on other retailers to follow suit.

“The costumes are very problematic and offensive to many people,” said ADC president Samer Khalaf, blaming the Israeli military for the death and occupation of Palestinians.

“Such a symbol of fear, violence and a long history of dispossession should not be used for entertainment purposes.”

The costumes were not listed on Wal-Mart’s website today.

But Amazon is selling the soldier’s costume for USD 29.99. The outfit has a two-star rating and has attracted a slew of negative remarks on the website branding it “disgusting.”

Multiple children’s military outfits are offered for Halloween, including a Navy SEAL costume – the elite US unit that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Amazon’s website also advertises the “Sheik Fagin Nose” for USD 22.38 illustrated by a picture purportedly showing an Arab in a head dress with an oversized nose.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) told AFP that it was an annual problem.

“It seems to be a perennial thing, that every year around this time, there is an offensive, racist Halloween costume that has to be challenged,” he said.

“Given that Israeli soldiers are currently abusing Palestinian civilians and have been… I think it’s very inappropriate to have this as a children’s costume,” he added.

ADC and CAIR welcomed Wal-Mart’s decision, and joined the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) to urge Amazon, eBay and Sears Marketplace to follow suit.

Wal-Mart, Amazon and eBay did not immediately respond to a request to comment.