The message on Rock Paper Scissors’ newest tote bag is simple but powerful.
In pink Arabic lettering it says:
"The only goal of this text is to spread panic among those who fear the Arabic language."
For 20 shekels ($7) you can pick up one of these totes in the port city of Haifa, Israel.
Opened a few weeks ago, Rock Paper Scissors is a graphic design and print studio run by 29-year-old Sana Jammalieh and 27-year-old Haitham Charles Haddad.
The two met seven years ago in Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art in Tel Aviv. Jammalieh came from Nazarath, Haitham came from Haifa. They’ve been close friends ever since.
A year in the making, the pair told SBS they started Rock Paper Scissors because they saw a need for people to wear something local which represented them, rather than larger impersonal brands.
A video prepared for the launch of their store positions the studio squarely in the Middle Eastern hipster market.
Most of their designs contain Arabic words, not as a statement, they say, but “because it is our language, and part of who we are, and we think it should be part of our urban landscape.”
That was the thinking behind the tote. "While fuddling what to write we came to a conclusion that the existence of the font and language - and not necessarily the writing - is what's important," they told SBS.
“We notice here that the Arabic language is starting to disappear from signs and public places,” the designers said.
Arabic is an official language in Israel, but newspapers regularly filled with stories of an ongoing culture war which has been raging for years in the small Mediterranean country. The battle centers around identity, fought between a substantial Arab-Israeli minority, and conservatives seeking to cement Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
The latest battleground is textbooks, with critics accusing the Education Ministry of erasing Arab history in the new national curriculum.
Jammalieh and Haddad say some of their designs are political – addressing sexual and gender based oppression – but that politics is not the primary reason behind their designs.
“But today, where we live, anyone wearing a t-shirt with Arabic words on it is a political statement,” they said.