Israeli t-shirt humour condemned as ‘tasteless’
Naftali Raz, an Israeli paratrooper for 35 years, has fought three wars for his country, but he’s also one of the strongest advocates for peace.
The t-shirt of the organization he helped found thirty years ago bears a message of peace, but was one he could never wear as a combat soldier.
“I could not wear a simple ‘peace now’ shirt under the uniform, because it’s hinting at politics. I did not want to see any soldier with a right-wing t-shirt, even under the clothing, so I agreed,” Raz says.
One is alleged to have printed on it: ‘Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!’ Another: ‘We came, we saw, we destroyed’. Then there’s the t-shirt – supposedly intended for infantry snipers – with a picture of a Palestinian mother crying while holding her dead baby, which said ‘Better use Durex’. There was also one with a picture of a pregnant Palestinian mother and the caption ‘One shot kills two’.
“This is the shop where the t-shirts were ordered. We’ve been refused permission to go inside. The owner says it was only a few isolated orders.”
“Usually in the army you are under a lot of strict rules, you don’t get a lot of compliments, a lot of benefits. This is the soldier’s way to symbolise the end of the training process, it is not something that is certified by the army,” Amit Goldberg, an Israeli soldier, says.
After field training it’s traditional for soldiers to put their unit’s name onto a t-shirt, but some of the designs would never have been printed years ago.
“There is a latent racism and aggression that is definitely being expressed by these t-shirts. On the other side perhaps some of these people are using perhaps a very dark humour, but they are using humour to try and process the information they’re dealing with,” psychologist Danny Khan believes.
The Israeli army said it was investigating the matter, and in a statement added:
“The writing on the shirts was printed at the initiative of the soldiers and on private t-shirts. The examples are not in accordance with IDF values and are simply tasteless. This type of humour is unbecoming and should be condemned.”
However, many in Israel are asking how things managed to get this far, like Nasser – the t-shirt printing shop owner.
“All the designs we sell in the shop have to be approved by the Israeli government. A while ago it was forbidden to print a specific design about Lebanon. The design was ‘I love Lebanon’ and it was after the war with Hezbollah. The government said I had to take the t-shirts off the shelves.”
“From people who are living in such a situation where they feel the hate, all of this, all day long, it’s everywhere, they need some sort of humour to make themselves feel a little better and not feel depressed all day, so you get these t-shirts. They are kind of funny in a weird, twisted kind of way, it makes sense that they’ll print it. I wouldn’t print it, but I might buy one as a joke and then never wear it,” Nasser’s assistant Avital Ben Hamou adds.