A simple tote bag created by Haifa designers Sana Jammalieh and Haitham Haddad is sweeping the internet as a commentary on global anti-Arab sentiment.
Black Arabic script on the bag reads: “This text has no other purpose than to spread terror in the hearts of those who are afraid of the Arabic language.”
Nader al-Sarras, a journalist in Berlin, spotted the tote bag on the German metro and shared it on Facebook. It has since been tweeted 30,000 times, say the designers, both Palestinian citizens of Israel. They have received hundreds of orders for the $5 tote bag.
“These days, all over the world, in Europe and in the United States and here there is a common fear of this language,” said Haddad. “We made a sarcastic statement with this tote.”
When non-Arabic speakers overhear a conversation in Arabic, added Jammalieh, “they think something bad is going to happen any minute, something is going to blow up or something and we wanted to fight back by this design.”
She said that the bag is a also comment on the erasure of Arabic signage in Israel. Despite a 2002 Supreme Court ruling to place Arabic — one of Israel’s official languages — on Tel Aviv street signs, a 2016 Haaretz investigation found that many signs in the city contained only Hebrew and English.
Jammalieh, 29, and Haddad, 27, are the owners of Rock Paper Scissors studio in Haifa, where they sell T-shirts and bags featuring their original designs. The two met at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan where Jammalieh, originally from Nazareth, studied graphic design and Haddad, a Haifa native, studied fashion.
Another popular shirt from their studio says in Arabic, simply, “I love you.”
Naomi Zeveloff is the former Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.