Daily Israel Report

PA Angered by Israeli Keffiyeh

The Palestinian Authority has expressed anger over the Israeli Keffiyeh worn by Zionist activists and has accused Israel of stealing Arab culture.
By Avi Yellin
First Publish: 11/3/2010, 8:01 PM / Last Update: 11/3/2010, 9:12 PM

Zionist Freedom Alliance

Palestinian Authority Minister of Culture Siham Barghouthi said Tuesday that his ministry is investigating what he called Israel’s theft of “Palestinian heritage.”

”Palestinian culture must be preserved by organizing exhibitions and festivals to show that heritage claimed by Israel is actually Palestinian!” Bargouthi claimed in an interview with Ma’an Radio. "Palestinians" have often been asked to show what they claim their non pan-Arab heritage, since before the declaration of the state of Israe, the word "Palestine" or "Palestinian" referred to Jewish institutions, such as the "Palestine Post" and the "Palestine Philharmonic" and there was no Arab group calling itself by that name.
 
Barghouthi specifically mentioned the blue and white “Israeli keffiyeh” with a Stars of David pattern worn in Israel and on American university campuses by activists from the Zionist Freedom Alliance. The PA minister called the scarf a “Palestinian national symbol” and attacked Zionists for usurping the keffiyeh and replacing its traditional pattern with Zionist symbols.
 
While Benny Katz of the ZFA expressed satisfaction that the Israeli keffiyeh has angered the American-backed PA, he stressed to Israel National News that the ZFA headscarf carries a strong Zionist message. “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. Synagogues could not be built higher than mosques and Jews could not ride atop animals for fear that they would appear higher than Muslims. As the keffiyeh came to be seen as the crown of the Arabs and its wearer was attributed an honorable status, non-Muslims were forbidden from wearing such garments.”
 
“With the rebirth of the Jewish nation in our homeland, there are voices calling Israel back to our authentic national culture. The Israeli keffiyeh is part of this trend. Its wearer is making a clear statement that – 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.”
 
“By wearing it, we proclaim a desire for peace with our neighbors balanced with an equally strong proclamation that our people have a legitimate right to sovereignty in our entire country. In today’s post-exile Jewish reality, we will no longer allow foreign antagonists to rob us of our homeland or of our national culture.”
 
Shemspeed, a Jewish music label and promotional company in the United States, recently released their own version of the ZFA’s Israeli keffiyeh, embroidered with the Hebrew words Am Yisrael Hai (The Nation of Israel Lives). According to Shemspeed founder and director Erez Safar, who also produces music under the alias of DJ Diwon, Jews have just as much right as Arabs to wear the keffiyeh.
 
“Jews indigenous to the [Middle East], such as my family, have worn some variation of the kefyah [cap/kippa] and keffiyeh for thousands of years… The original purpose of the scarves was to provide protection from the sun and sand. When it comes to religious observance, the Muslim tradition of head covering originates from the Jewish tradition.”