A group of Palestinian Bedouin women who said an Israeli movement and fashion designer deceived them into embroidering a New York Fashion Week dress is now set to take legal action, Al Jazeera reported.
"The women of Desert Embroidery, who work as seamstresses under the auspices of a local association for the empowerment of Bedouin women in the Negev, helped an Israeli designer with the creation of a dress in the traditional Palestinian embroidered style," the news site wrote.
The women said no one had informed them of the real reasons behind the partnership initiated by designer Aviad Arik Herman.
They described the entire incident as "deceiving and dishonest."
The dress was showcased at a fundraiser event co-hosted by OR Movement and Tahor Group, a New York-based agency that regularly promotes the work of Israeli designers.
It has received intense backlash from social media users, many of whom "dubbed the result as 'cultural appropriation' due to the use of Palestinian embroidery on an Israeli design."
"We would have never agreed to do this had we known from the start who he was"
According to Asma al-Saneh, head of the Lakia-based Association for the Improvement of Women's Status, Herman, the fashion designer, failed to mention who he was.
He also made no mention of OR Movement, the Israeli organization that sponsored the partnership and the dress.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, al-Saneh said:
"We regularly receive such requests from various designers and retailers in Israel - so this was not a one-time occurrence, and we had no problem assisting him [the designer]. But we would have never agreed to do this had we known from the start who he was and who had sent him."
"We feel that our end product was misused," she added.
According to Herman and OR Movement's CEO, Roni Flamer, the interaction from the beginning of the project was "authentic" and transparent, and both parties were aware of OR's involvement.
Al-Saneh refuted his account of events.
What's the OR movement?
"Established in 2002, OR Movement's mission is to create Jewish towns in southern Israel's Negev desert and Galilee regions."
However, many believe that the real objective behind the movement is "to build Jewish communities on top of existing Bedouin villages."
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Haia Noach, the director of Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, explained that:
"The OR Movement categorically does not work for the promotion of coexistence in the Negev. It is an organization that consistently works for the promotion of Jewish settlement in the Negev and the Galilee and expansion of the Jewish population in these areas."
"Although some Bedouins live in towns sponsored by OR Movement, Noach says these are only 'token examples of coexistence and do not constitute real equality.'"
The Bedouin community comprises some 200,000 people throughout Israel, centered mainly in the country's south.
"Israeli authorities have regularly executed home demolition orders in the Negev, claiming that the villages lack necessary building permits - which residents say are impossible to obtain."
As a result, many families have been forced out of these areas.
The women are set to take legal action
"We work very hard to empower women in our community. We would have never associated ourselves with a movement that promotes the building of settlements on top of unrecognized and even recognized villages in the Negev," al-Saneh said.
"In media reports and social media posts, [OR Movement and the designer] did say that this partnership demonstrates peace and coexistence, but we were never consulted about what we perceived this to be. We feel that they assumed our thoughts on our behalf," she added.
"We feel that they used our association's name to serve their personal interests, and we feel that our name has now been shaken," she explained.
Al-Saneh stressed that the group has now asked for their association's name to be removed from all social media posts related to the fundraising event. They have also refused to accept payment for the alleged partnership.
"The association is now preparing for legal proceedings in an effort to draw attention to its objective as an independent entity dedicated to the social and economic empowerment of women in the Negev."
Not the first time Herman sparks outrage and controversy
This is not the first time Israeli designer Aviad Arik Herman sparks controversy.
Earlier this year, he made headlines when he designed a controversial gown depicting a "unified Jerusalem."
The dress was worn by far-right Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev at the Cannes Film Festival.
Regev wore the dress "to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War."
The dress sparked controversy and received intense backlash from Palestinians and Arabs on social media.