The Keffiyeh is not a fashion statement. It is a political statement. Know what you’re wearing before you falsely adorn it.
Outside of the Middle East and North Africa, the keffiyeh first gained popularity among activists supporting the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel.
Its prominence increased in the 1960s with the beginning of the Palestinian resistance movement and its adoption by Palestinian politician Yasser Arafat. Another Palestinian figure associated with the keffiyeh is Laila Khaled, a female member of the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These photos often included Khaled wearing a keffiyeh in the style of a Muslim woman’s hijab, wrapped around the head and shoulders. This was unusual, as the keffiyeh is associated with Arab masculinity, and many believe this to be something of a statement by Khaled, denoting her equality with men in the Palestinian armed struggle.The colors of the stitching in a keffiyeh are also vaguely associated with Palestinians’ political sympathies. Traditional black and white keffiyehs became associated with Fatah. Later, red and white keffiyehs were adopted by Palestinian Marxists, such as the PFLP. Today, Palestinian Marxists have virtually disappeared, and red and white keffiyehs are instead identified with Hamas.
The color symbolism of the scarves is by no means universally accepted by all Palestinians or Arabs. Its importance should not be overstated, as the scarves are used by Palestinians and Arabs of all political affiliations, as well as by those with no particular political sympathies.
today, this symbol of Palestinian identity is now largely imported from China. With the scarf’s growing popularity in the 2000s, Chinese manufacturers entered the market, driving Palestinians out of the business. In 2008, Yasser Herbawi, who for five decades had been the only Palestinian manufacturer of keffiyehs, is now struggling with sales. The Herbawi Textile Factory has 16 machines. In 1990, all 16 machines were functioning, making 750 keffiyahs per day. Today, only 2 machines are used, making a mere 300 keffiyahs per week. Unlike the Chinese manufactured ones, Herbawis uses 100% cotton. Yasser Herbawis son, Izzat, states the importance of creating the Palestinian symbol, in Palestine, “the keffiyah is a tradition of Palestine and it should be made in Palestine. We should be the ones making it.”.
If you’re going to buy a Keffiyeh, make sure it is made in Palestine or the Mid East. Not China.
In 2007, the American clothing store chain, Urban Outfitters, stopped selling keffiyehs after “a pro-Israel activist… complained about the items”, and the store also issued a statement that “the company had not intended ‘to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism’ in selling the keffiyehs and was pulling them”.
And that is why I never shop at Urban Outfitters.
Point being people, know what it symbolizes. It’s not cute, it’s not on sale, it’s not ‘what’s in’ …it’s a support for freedom.