Israeli version of Arab headdress angers Palestinians

Thursday, November 04, 2010 |  Ryan Jones

The Palestinian Authority’s minister of culture, Siham Barghouti, on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the growing phenomenon of the Israeli version of the traditional Arab headdress known as the keffiyeh.

Barghouti told Ma’an Radio that the Israeli keffiyeh, which replaces the traditional black or red checkered pattern with blue Stars of David, is a theft of “Palestinian heritage.” He insisted that the keffiyeh is a “Palestinian national symbol.”

The Israeli keffiyeh is showing up much more often at rallies in the Jewish state, as well as at pro-Israel events on American university campuses. It is particularly popular with the younger generation of pro-Israel activists.

One such activist, Benny Katz of the Zionist Freedom Alliance, noted in remarks to Israel National News that historically, the keffiyeh is just as much Jewish as it is Arab.

“In ancient times, it was common for Hebrews to wear keffiyot, but the rise of Islam brought with it a series of laws that gave non-Muslims an inferior position in society,” said Katz.

Indeed, analysis of biblical texts and other historical sources indicate that a headdress very similar, if not identical, to the modern keffiyeh has been worn by residents of the Middle East regardless of ethnicity since ancient times. When Islam conquered the region, and with the keffiyeh being seen as a symbol of masculinity and status, non-Muslims were forbidden to wear the scarf.

Explained Katz: “Like the Arab, Kurd and Druze – the Jew is a Middle Easterner and is indigenous to this region. The Israeli keffiyeh is a proud symbol of Jewish nationalism but also a statement of solidarity with the other peoples of the Middle East.”

Barghouti’s claim that the black-and-white keffiyeh worn by most Palestinian Arabs is a “Palestinian national symbol” is also dubious, as that particular variation of the keffiyeh actually originated in the region of Syria. It gained prominence as a “Palestinian symbol” during the 1930s when local Arabs first started carrying out terrorist attacks against Jews and the forces of the British Mandate.

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