Exploiting Anne Frank

The most tasteless T-shirt ever

by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, professor of English and Jewish Studies at Indiana University (USA)

I want to go on living even after my death. (Anne Frank)

In January, a stenciled image of a smiling Anne Frank wearing a red and white kaffiyeh appeared on the walls of buildings in Amsterdam. Soon after, an enterprising Dutch business firm called Boomerang transferred this image to designer T-shirts and postcards. The cards were distributed free throughout the Netherlands, no doubt to boost sales for Boomerang’s politically chic new line of shirts. But it was a risky marketing move to promote a product featuring the face of Amsterdam’s most famous martyr made over to look like Yasser Arafat’s daughter.

The Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands expressed outrage. So did Dutch Jewish organizations. But that response was not universal. Some were drawn to the newfangled Palestinian Anne Frank and endorsed the artist’s political point, which one blogger interpreted to be that “the Zionists, in the name of Jewry, [were] doing to the Palestinians what was done to Jews in Europe.” This simplistic formula has become a staple in the rhetoric of contemporary anti-Zionism. The charge it makes is baseless, but it is rhetorically catchy and now routinely employed to tar Israel with the Nazi brush.

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