If you wear a black & white scarf, the terrorists win

Thanks to Wonkette I found out about the most asinine snippet of fabricated outrage since Falwell warned us all about that sinister homosexual Teletubby. This time, right-wing cheer squad Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson have frothed up at the mouth over the fact that Dunkin Donuts and Rachael Ray are colluding to support anti-Semitic terrorism.

Wait, what?

Rachael Ray in a Dunkin Donuts commercial

Look, right there! In the middle of the picture. No, above the “artificial sweeteners and skim milk are better for you” latte she’s hawking… she’s wearing a black and white scarf! Or more precisely, what the froth squad are calling a keffiyah — the traditional Arab headscarf that, in a particular black-and-white pattern, became a symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggles for sovereignty. Sadly, they’re not joking. Although I have to say I laughed out loud at the phrase “hate couture.” The thing is, if you look at the scarf Rachael Ray is wearing in that picture, it doesn’t even remotely resemble the pattern traditionally associated with the keffiyeh, which resembles an interlocking net or a chain-link fence. Look, here’s Yasser Arafat wearing one… a fairly iconic and well-known image. But Ray’s scarf doesn’t even have a regular geometric pattern on it.

It’s easy to joke about the obvious problems here. Dunkin Donuts has already responded to the controversy by saying:

Thank you for taking the time voice your concerns about the Dunkin’ Donuts Rachael Ray advertisement. In the ad that you reference, Rachael is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design purchased at a U.S. retail store and selected by her stylist for the advertising shoot. This is not a ‘kaffiyeh’, which is typically a checkered and cotton/wool fabric.

It has paisleys on it. You can see one if you look closely enough. At this point, we’re in the territory where any black and white scarf becomes suspect, whether worn around your head like Arafat or draped loosely around your neck. Extra Axis-of-Evil points if it has knotted tassels! And yes, Jon from Exurban League seems to feel perfectly fine jumping into that territory and saying that no, you shouldn’t wear a black and white scarf unless you want to send an anti-Semitic message of hate and support for terrorism. What’s next… is Santa Claus a Communist again because of the red suit? You know, we really shouldn’t stop at black and white scarves; even more radical Palestinian groups than Arafat’s (such as Hamas) have been known to adopt checkered scarves in red or other colors. We better check the whole Urban Outfitters catalog and boycott suspect neckwear — especially that one called “Desert Scarf,” that’s very suspicious.

However, there are bigger fish to fry here than the extensio ad absurdum of black and white scarves. The keffiyeh, the actual keffiyeh and not just any patterned monochrome scarf in existence, really is a symbol of Palestinian liberation. And this issue has come up before, when outrage from the blogosphere convinced Urban Outfitters to pull their strikingly familiar “anti-war” scarves off the shelves. Oh wait, except they didn’t really pull them off the shelves at all. They just renamed the products, calling the scarves shemaghs, a name also adopted by US and UK troops when wearing this kind of scarf as a face covering for harsh desert weather, or even just “desert scarves” as mentioned above. Fashion and marketing mutate the name, the pattern, even the material (silk’s not quite as good in a sandstorm, Rachael) until the symbol starts slipping out of your hands, and you start looking like a raving lunatic if you try to fix it onto a political opinion.

I actually think a lot of the criticism leveled at retailers like Urban Outfitters was valid. As Sieradski pointed out on Jewschool, the merchandising of the keffiyah dilutes and trivializes any connection the piece of clothing has to actual political conflicst. Posts from the Arab-American forum Kabobfest were quoted saying much the same thing:

With a great deal of discomfort and a tad bit of pissed-off-ness, I regret to (re)inform the KABOB-o-sphere that Palestine has officially become a trend…That’s right folks, for a mere $20.00 (or 75.0127 Saudi Riyal) you too can jump on the socially stupid hipster-doofus bandwagon by rocking your very own “Anti-War Woven Scarf!” (available only at Urban Outfitters… or..err..uh… the Middle East).

It’s another example of the fashion industry thriving on scavenging and appropriating whatever cultural traditions they can find to profit off of, but perhaps more saliently, it’s a fusion of military and political chic — much like Alberto Korda’s famous photograph of Che Guevara. A visual motif becomes popular because it originally meant something; 20-somethings in more affluent metropolises of the world adopt it to look countercultural, to express their political solidarty; finally, Urban Outfitters wants to make some quick cash.

I really do believe that some symbols mean something real. I disagree strenuously with anyone who claims that you can appropriate a meaning-laden symbol and turn it into a simple fashion statement; there are reasons global culture won’t let anyone get away with doing that to an angled swastika motif in black, white and red. (At the same time, I do wish more people knew the much longer history of the symbol and how it’s used in Asian cultures.) But there are two problems in this case. One is that the right-wing zealots are trying to foist their own blanket meaning on a piece of clothing that has a long history as a national symbol. I’ll come back to that later. The other problem is that Malkin and Johnson are complaining about a symbol that has basically escaped and vanished, lost its meaning in the Land of Miscellaneous Consumer Scarves.

The more popular the symbol becomes, not to mention the more permutations it gets put through, the less likely anyone is to make any kind of political connection. Regardless of how you feel about Israel and Palestine, isn’t that what we should be mourning here: the complete dissolution of an important issue that’s killed countless people, destroyed families, and ripped a region apart, into a meaningless fashion statement? The hilarious thing is that the right-wing froth squad have everything exactly backwards; it’s not like they can really stop anyone from wearing any generic black and white scarf, but they can yell about it as if the trivialization and dilution of real life-and-death geopolitical events isn’t happening. As if people’s fashion choices really did mean something, but the whole point of consumerism is that these kinds of meanings get sucked out and replaced with price tags.

Finally, here is the real question we should really ask ourselves: what about celebrities and political figures and everday folks who really do wear keffiyahs, unlike Rachael Ray, and wear them to express support for the Palestinian people? Malkin and Johnson would have you believe that this is a clear statement of support for terrorism and hatred for Jews. There’s something very, very rotten in that assumption — do I really need to explain it? Equating Israel with all Jews is suspect enough; just for starters, it’s an equation that a whole lot of Jews object to strenuously. Even in the United States, pro-Israel political leadership is having an increasingly hard time mobilizing support for Israel’s policies from American Jews, especially all the urban, liberal Jews in this country.

On top of that, the “keffiyehs support terror” mindset makes Palestine and any support for the Palestinian people equivalent to terrorism. You can’t really make that kind of claim with a straight face and also say you hope for peace in the Middle East.



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85 Responses to If you wear a black & white scarf, the terrorists win

  1. lucie says:

    just wanted to add that i live in paris and these types of scarves are “the item” right now. they are everywhere. and i haven’t heard a peep of controversy about it (although i might have missed it)

  2. bend says:

    As a Jew, the whole Urban Outfitters hubub was nonsense. It’s a fucking scarf. Calm down. I wear a Goldwater 64 shirt. It’s ironic.

  3. LadyTess says:

    Well said, Holly.

    I would also like to add that I still find it very sad that the swastika has become a symbol of evil much like the pentagram. Whenever i see it graffitied somewhere around here and crossed out it makes me wonder if the vandal who sprayed it even knows the true meaning of said symbol.

  4. Lauren says:

    I have an Oliver North t-shirt that goes over well at the bars.

  5. Jill says:

    I would also like to add that I still find it very sad that the swastika has become a symbol of evil much like the pentagram. Whenever i see it graffitied somewhere around here and crossed out it makes me wonder if the vandal who sprayed it even knows the true meaning of said symbol.

    Man… in college, my boyfriend was Indian and Hindu, and I went to his house one year for, IIRC, a Diwali party. They had a bunch of candles set in colored sand, and the sand was shaped into symbols. One of them was a swastika. I took a picture of it, along with the other sand candle-holders, but didn’t put the swastika image on my Flickr account for obvious reasons. It is, however, on my computer, and for whatever reason ended up as the first picture to come up on my iPhoto.

    So imagine my embarrassment when I took my computer into the Mac store because iPhoto was acting up, and the tech guy opened up the program to see… a nice big swastika.

    There’s really no moral to that story, except to say that Holly is right that some symbols are used enough to mean one thing that they eventually take that on. The kufiya is a different example, because now it just means “trendy.” But, like it or not, the swastika also has a very particularized meaning, and I think it’s really hard to get past that.

  6. Jill says:

    And I actually have a kufiya too, but an Egyptian one, though I almost never wear it. The last time I took it out, I wore it to go see Tom Friedman speak at NYU. I figured it would make his head explode (hey, at least it wasn’t a turtle suit).

  7. Sabotabby says:

    Also? If you wear houndstooth or herringbone, you hate America.

    I am annoyed at all the trendoid places around here selling the houndstooth scarves and either calling them keffiyehs or something equally stupid (one hipster joint had a big sign over them that said “Rock the Casbah.”). It’s fun watching Malkin get all frothy about it, though.

    I have a keffiyeh (a proper one) but I stopped wearing it because I felt uncomfortable with the idea that my wearing it, as a white Jewish North American, was a spot of cultural appropriation. (Though Palestinians themselves generally seem to approve when I do wear it.) Now it’s become so ubiquitous that I feel like I should wear it, being one of the apparent minority of people who actually knows the symbolism behind it.

  8. Natalia says:

    This latest debacle reeks of McCarthyism. Perhaps next we can freak out over hookah. Dum dum dum.

  9. MizDarwin says:

    Keffiyah or not, that scarf does not go with the bag.

  10. Marissa says:

    I just blogged about this, (quelle coincidence!), so I’ll take my comment from my post:

    “I don’t really care about Rachel Ray’s political opinions. She’s a chef, not a pundit. I’m wearing a Checkpoint Charlie t-shirt today, but that doesn’t mean I’m advocating for the re-separation of Germany.”

  11. Sophist FCD says:

    I would advise everyone not to try reading the comment thread for MM’s post. It’s well above the LD50 level for idiocy. Take this comment:

    I don’t really think that Rachel is smart enough to realize what she’s wearing and what it means.

    That is such I concentrated bit of 24 karat irony, I’m surprised it hasn’t collapsed into a tiny ironic black hole.

  12. Sus says:

    I live in Japan where the swastika is still on maps to mark shrines. Indeed, it’s often the primary decoration at the shrine itself.

    A friend of mine came to visit, and she just couldn’t get over the horror of seeing the symbol everywhere. She actually tried to convince me that the Japanese should remove the symbols because the meaning has been tainted. Um, you don’t just remove symbols from centuries old shrines b/c of a 20th century re-appropriation of that symbol.

    I tried to tell her the history of it, but I don’t think she got over her shock which I can understand. It’s a symbol we’ve been taught all our lives (we’re both American) is a symbol of pure evil. To go from that to seeing it, not just everywhere, but in revered places is a lot of culture shock (and as a conservative Christian she was already experiencing a lot of that by going to Buddhist and Shinto shrines).

    The keffiyah may lose its political power in Western, but that doesn’t mean the symbol loses power or morph in its original context.

  13. Solitary says:

    The scarf is ugly. Sorry, that was my first thought when I saw it. It’s too wide and all scraggly. I like wide, scraggly scarves, but only over heavy coats and sweaters, otherwise it just look weird…kinda like that picture. Anyways, my lamentable lack of fashion-sense aside, they *the same they that cook up faux outrage every other day or so* were really reaching for this one.

  14. Lala says:

    I agree with bend a scarf is a scarf, my only thoughts are a scarf and short sleeves looks odd.

  15. MizDarwin says:

    I’m glad we’re all in agreement that Ms. Ray has committed a crime against fashion, not politics.

  16. annejumps says:

    The best part of this to me is that Dunkin’ Brands is part of The Carlyle Group.

  17. Peter says:

    right-wing cheer squad Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson have frothed up at the mouth over the fact that Dunkin Donuts and Rachael Ray are colluding to support anti-Semitic terrorism.

    Do these nutjobs know how idiotic they sound? I have a hard time believing that they are this stupid.

    My guess, is that they know they are lying and exaggerating. My guess is that they are intentionally manufacturing false controversy to stoke xenophobia and islamophobia. That’s how republicans drive their base to the polls. I think its all been quite well documented how the elite rightwing intelligensia will use cultural issues and wedge distractions to win elections. Malakin doesn’t give a crap about this scarf. She just knows if she gets enough yahoos enraged over a fake issue, then politicians sympathetic to Malkins REAL concerns (unfettered privatization, dismantling of the safety net, wholesale deregulation) have a chance at being elected.

  18. CBrachyrhynchos says:

    “This latest debacle reeks of McCarthyism.” Didn’t Malkin go off on a long rant a while back about how McCarthy was actually *good* for the Untied States because a handful of the people blacklisted really were communists?

  19. little cabbage says:

    Er, I have a black and white checked scarf that I wore all winter. It literally never occurred to me that it could possibly be identified with a Palestinian keffiyeh. And I’m Jewish and generally pretty supportive of Israel.

    Rachael Ray’s scarf doesn’t look like a keffiyeh. It does look like melting candle wax, but that’s neither here nor there.

  20. Natalia says:

    I don’t know about Malkin, but Ann Coulter definitely pulled that stunt a few years back.

  21. michele says:

    this is pretty hilarious because it actually happened to me– i was at dunkin’ donuts wearing a herringbone scarf and a man came up to me and accused me of supporting terrorism! it was pretty great. as for this case, rachael ray sucks no matter how you look at it.

  22. Magda says:

    Regardless of the fact that Ray probably had no intention of causing any controversy wearing the scarf, which, had the people who made the original complaint any sense at all, would have investigated further only to realize that this is not even a keffiyeh, why would they point this out if they’re so intent on NOT promoting anti-jewish/pro-palestninian liberation behaviour? Everyone knows that pretty much the only news that most North Americans watch is E! News, so they really had to go to rather great lengths to educate the public on her so-called tabooed political blunder.
    Secondly, why the hell is promoting the liberation of an oppressed people by a nation, Israel, that is blatantly refusing to comply with UN, internationally recognized laws such a tabooed thing? Does anyone even realize that the kaffiyeh doesn’t symbolize anti-semitism????? It’s meant to symbolize rebellion against Israel, NOT THE JEWS! There is a difference between being Jewish and Israeli. Take for example Poland: it’s almost 85% homogeneous Roman Catholic, yet when something political is happening in Poland, the press refer to whatever is going on as Polish-related, not Catholic related. Why is it then in a nation where only 82% of the population is Jewish that when there is a movement against the political agenda of that nation it suddenly becomes a movement against the religion of the majority?
    But anyway, the scarf definitely doesn’t match, i’m with you guys on that one!

  23. exholt says:

    It’s another example of the fashion industry thriving on scavenging and appropriating whatever cultural traditions they can find to profit off of, but perhaps more saliently, it’s a fusion of military and political chic — much like Alberto Korda’s famous photograph of Che Guevara. A visual motif becomes popular because it originally meant something; 20-somethings in more affluent metropolises of the world adopt it to look countercultural, to express their political solidarty; finally, Urban Outfitters wants to make some quick cash.

    Che Guevara and Mao Zedong merchandise was very popular on my college campus. We’ve even had large posters advertising North Korea’s Kim Jong Il’s political philosophy books.

    However, the undergrad classmates who wore them were far more serious about their expressed political convictions and aware of their significance than undergrads/young adults I’ve seen in other areas such as Boston and NYC.

    Though I will respect those undergrad classmates for that aspect, they were clueless in their upper/upper-middle class suburban American privilege when they were callously dismissive of the brutal oppression that were implemented by those very revolutionary leaders…or carried out in their name. It also didn’t help curb their classist tendencies in other areas.

    Personally, I not only have no problem with the ironic appropriation of Marxist/Maoist revolutionary symbolism for profit. This appropriation actually underscores the ironic hypocrisy of supposed revolutionaries who end up creating new hierarchical power structures under the guise of Marxist/Maoist revolution.

  24. gregory says:

    wow, the US is a very strange place.

  25. Sean says:

    Sometimes, a scarf is just a scarf.

    Actually, scratch that. A scarf is always a fucking scarf.

  26. Phil says:

    Meh. She’s no terrorist but does deserve to be stuffed into a cell in Gitmo for inventing the term EVOO. YAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!!! Anthony Bordain is right. She is the Antichrist.

  27. Anita says:

    Thank you for this post. No matter what the print/material of the scarf is, there is no doubt it is some derivative of the keffiyehs that have become the must-have acessory here in NYC.

    I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the capital of hipster and hip-hop fashion. When I first saw all these kids wearing keffiyehs in funky colors like purple and bright green, I was like “Cool. maybe I’ll get one, too, or just break out one of the old ones my family has at home.”

    But then I saw them become increasingly trendy; say, wrapped around the neck of a blonde, hometown-USA prom-queen-looking-type in midtown, and I wasn’t sure wether to be tickled or disturbed. In the Arab world, the keffiyeh is as much a cultural symbol as a kimono in Japan, but also as commonplace as baseball caps in America.

    SO…what may have started as a statement of solidarity with an oppressed people fused with street fashion -and like many other street fashions- went mainstream.

    The keffiyeh trickled it’s way up the fashion ladder into that DD commercial. And that is either a brilliant example of the power of the youth to say ‘HAHA, GOTCHA!’ and get their point across subversively, or it is a disturbing look at how culturally unaware we are as Americans.

    I hope for GOTCHA.

  28. Holly says:

    Sadly Anita, I’m not sure if there’s much subversion remaining in most of the keffiyeh-inspired scarves you see aroudn — or keffiyeh-reminiscent scarves, since I’m not even sure you could say that Rachael Ray’s scarf is all that keffiyeh-like.

    As for a lot of the other comments — I feel like some of the point here is being missed. No, a scarf is not always just a scarf. The keffiyeh is not just a utilitarian and cultural piece of clothing from a particular part of the world; as I pointed out, it also came to have political meaning for Palestinians in the 1960s, when it was first used in a “we’re all Spartacus” maneuver. The reason it spread into other parts of the world was precisely because people were expressing solidarity with Palestinians struggling for independence and political autonomy, making it more than just a scarf just as a red AIDS ribbon on someone’s lapel is more than just a decoration — it’s a decoration with intent and meaning.

    The fact that many people, especially young people, very often in western Europe, were adopting this political piece of clothing is EXACTLY why it became popular as a fashionable item. This is why Urban Outfitters was hawking them as “anti-war scaves” and Delia’s as “peace scarves” and so on and so forth. Even after yanking them from the shelves, UO still called them shemaghs or desert scarves, indicating the original cultural context they’d been ripped from.

    All of this really does have meaning. However, that doesn’t make the Rachael Ray thing any less ludicrous or the right-wing punditry any less foolish for firing off their outrage cannons at something that barely resembles a fashion trend that’s long been diluted away from its original meaning. (And as Peter said, it’s deliberate and cynical bloviating.)

    So yes — the keffiyah and all its renamed, repurposed, restyled neon-colored trendy variations seen across Europe and the US has gotten incredibly diluted. There are some people who still wear it as a political symbol, of course, but if you see someone walking down the street wearing a black-and-white net-patterned scarf with knotted tassels, it guarantees exactly nothing about their politics or intent. Ultimately, that means the symbol is on its way to being meaningless, and a scarf becomes just a scarf. But hello, this is not something we should be rejoicing about. Meaning — solidarity with a political struggle, reference to a very deadly conflict where many people have lost their lives, no matter what your stance is on it — has been sucked out and replaced by a trend. That’s sad.

  29. Peter says:

    LOL

    Here’s McCain’s daughter wearing a “keffiyah”

    http://static.crooksandliars.com/2008/05/meghan-and-cindy.jpg

    http://static.crooksandliars.com/2008/05/meghan.jpg

    I’m sure rightwing blogs will flame on her!

    Oh wait….

  30. Joseph says:

    I wear my keffiyah because I like the way it looks. And also to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

    The fact that it “outrages” Zionist nut-jobs (like Michelle Malkin) is a just a fantastic plus.

  31. orange banana says:

    Eh, I’m going to come out for the dissent here and say that Ms. Ray’s scarf is definitely supposed to be a keffiyeh knockoff, at the least. The coloring, shape, and fringe are all too similar to be an accident. But anyway, I think we can all agree that it’s just plain dumb to wear a keffiyeh without at least knowing about the political implications, no matter what you think about those political implications.

  32. Rachel says:

    Cripes, I love seeing one of my favorite J-bloggers (Mobius) quoted by one of my favorite feminist bloggers (Holly) on one of my favorite feminist blogs (feministe).

    It’s a perfect storm of yay!

  33. Vail says:

    Bah just because a scarf is black and white and has a fringe doesn’t mean that it’s trying to be a Keffiyeh knockoff. Many cultures have come up with the same designs or similar designs. Look at the swastika, not only is it in the Indian and Japanese cultures but also some Native American cultures. The plaid may have once symbolized a particular clan but now days no body cares (well except for the Scottish). I know a lot of old folks who get upset about people are wearing the American flag on their clothes. Fashion comes and goes, and some of it is just plain silly (remember people wearing their clothes backwards and shoulder pads?)

  34. Robin says:

    Thank you for this article – it’s the only one I’ve found so far that takes the time to mention that solidarity with Palestinians (to have their basic human rights and protection as declared by the U.N. treaty) does not mean one supports terrorists or is anti-Semitic. (But one could argue that giving money and weapons to people who use them to harm innocent people support terrorists, in which case America has a lot to answer for.) I don’t know who first flew off the handle about Rachael’s scarf and decided it was a keffiyah, but there is too much going on in the world to be making a problem where there isn’t one. Also, everyone is sure right – the whole look doesn’t match, but then that’s very Rachael Ray anyway. Have you SEEN her new 30 min. meal kitchen on Food Network? Who would pick that shade of day-glow orange and plaster it on every square inch of a tv set kitchen? Only someone who has no idea what looks good. Bless her, I’m sure the spazzy workaholic meltown is right around the corner anyway.

  35. Thomas says:

    Vail, two minute history:

    Tartan has existed in Scotland for more than a thousand years, but was originally not identified with particular clans. Local weavers made what they likes, and a pattern traveled as far as commerce took it. There were a few tartans that got “branded,” but only a few. Then, after the 1745 Jacobite rising (Bonnie Prince Charlie and all that), the Acts of Proscription outlawed tartan, bagpipes, weapons and essentially much of highland culture. The trend of trying to stamp out the Highlanders turned with Sir Walter Scott and Highland Romanticism, and by the early-to mid-1800s, appropriating highland culture was the fashionable thing to do. That was in the middle of the industrial expansion of the textiles industry, which invented a “clan” tartan for everyone — mid-Victorian forgeries created to market woolens. After a century and a half, though, the forgeries have their own historical pedigree, and I proudly wear one of the mid-Victorian forgeries.

    More on tartans here
    More on the forgery here

    (There are new, registered tartans every year, BTW, many of them quite nice.)

    On the battlefield in the clan-fights of the late medieval period, combattants were identifiable by sprigs of flowers in their bonnets, not the cloth of their kilts or great plaids.

  36. Michelle says:

    @Natalia: You’re damn right this reeks of McCarthyism. Since when is it bad to be Muslim?! I am so shocked that more Muslim American groups haven’t combatted the right’s attack on Islam, as though it’s this terrible thing. Why does Obama have to defend himself from being Muslim? First of all, to millions of people around the world who are Muslim, and the rest of us with common sense, it’s not an insult. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is a beautiful religion

  37. Mnemosyne says:

    Speaking of swastikas, one of our local cities has had to put a section on their website that points out that the swastika-decorated lampposts in some parts of their town actually predate the Nazi Party by a decade. The swastika was a very common design element in the 1920s, which was why the Nazis adopted it as a symbol. Kinda like all of those people who get mixed up and think the Mercedes-Benz logo is a peace symbol.

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  39. john mclaughlin says:

    i will boycott dunkin donuts if they don”t put the add back on!this shit makes us the laughing stock all over the world! why do we even pay attention to people like these idiots? by the way who are these people i never heard of them! he and she need to go get it with each other.

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  41. Heather says:

    IT IS A SCARF!!! Putting fashion issues aside (it is not like she even chose her own clothes, someone else dressed her); it is retarded to start blaming a piece of clothing. What is next, bandanas, they are usually worn by people who live outside the law (or else you are trying to survive in the desert). Oh what is that, these scarfs (and everything else they are called) have a purpose! There is a lot of dirt in the Middle East that everyone likes to keep out of their hair, face, etc as much as possible. In cooler climates, scarfs keep our ears and heads warm. What are we going to do next, blame everyone trying to stave off a New York/East Coast winter for supporting terrorist groups. And what about people who wear head coverings as a religious item (and they are not all Muslim!). Are we to say they are supporting terrorism? If we quit making mountains our of molehills and allowing network mouthpieces to get everyone rilled up, we would be a lot better off. All they do is talk more people into hating more people for beliefs that are not even there. I blame Dunkin Donuts for giving in. A symbol is a symbol is a symbol until it actually is backed up by people that believe in its power. The cross was an symbol of torture and capital punishment, now it is a symbol of religion.

  42. Afsaneh says:

    YASSER ARAFAT used the bathroom, too.

    Bathroom stores will soon go out of business ????? Let’s piss in the wind instead?

    (For those who don’t get it, Keffiyeh is all over Euuope these days – not just in black and white, but also red and white, yellow and white etc It’s an Arabic garb. Yasser Arafat was from the region, and wore it. Not the other way around.)

  43. Diane says:

    Thank you magda! i am wit amnesty international and i oppose the actions of the Israeli government-but i certainly do not hate jews and would never condone anti-semitism.

  44. b says:

    When I saw the introduction to this piece on the news today I knew right away the scarf was going to be the article in question. I decided to study fashion because I felt in was an important form of visual communication. Not only does Ms Ray’s stylist deserve to be fired for habitually making her look awful, she shows her ignorance on what her choices may mean to some people. Whether you agree or not with the people who called her out on it, you must agree that it is still grossly unprofessional to be unaware of something on which your livelihood depends on.

    Having said that, I’m also appalled at Ms Ray’s hypocrisy, promoting both junk food and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

    Everything about this is depressing and ridiculous.

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  48. Taymalin says:

    This is reminding me of when I was in highschool and we weren’t allowed to wear trench coats or dusters, because of the trench coat mafia. Suddenly any of us who wore them were suspect, though I still fail to see how banning an article of clothing could have stopped someone from shooting their classmates.

  49. Ben says:

    This has nothing to do with McCarthyism or terrorist. Don’t you get it yet people. Fox is trying to get the public to fear everything about Muslim culture. Now why would they do that ???? Why now ??
    I will give you a hint. November. If you still can’t read between the lines, you should not be voting.
    Is a good strategy. Uneducated people and the nationalists will fall for that one. Patriotic Americans will not go for this type of hype.

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  52. Amy says:

    Not at all similiar to the terrorist scarf. Rachel’s is very pretty and looks NOTHING like a keffiyah. Relax, people, and stop looking for reasons to gripe.

  53. MindComet says:

    So all this controversy over a scarf. Do you think this could be a marketing ploy and viral campaign for Dunkin Donuts? could they be that smart to cause more people to view their website? i don’t think so. Why so much controversy over a scarf that doesn’t even look like one from the Middle East? The only resemblance is that it is black and white.

  54. bamacharm says:

    MAGDA:

    It amazes me that so many talk about the “oppression of the Palestinians” without a clue regarding the history of the situation or without acknowleding the oppression against the Jewish People in Israel. Following the approval U.N.’s approval of the resolution partitioning Palestine in 1947, Jews accepted the plan even though they were to share their portion of the Jewish homeland with Palestinian Arabs. It was the Palestinians who refused to be part of any Jewish state, many of whom departed willingly for neighboring Arab countries which placed them in refugee camps rather than absorb them into their own populace (see Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria). The Palestinian Arabs created the Arab Liberation Army, rioted throughout the country and even blockaded the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem, threatening to kill them on sight (yes, there were 100K Jewish residents in Jerusalem long before the 67 War). In 1948, the Armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq all invaded Palestine to detroy the newly independent nation of Israel. What was the objective? Azzam Pasha, the Arab League Secretary, declared on Cairo radio: ‘This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades. The 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars both involved Arab invasions of Israel, not the other way around. The Israeli people endure terrorists bombings and rocket attacks from Palestinians on a routine basis. In 2000, President Clinton met with Barak and Arafat at Camp David. Israel made huge concessions for a proposal that would have given back lands captured in the wars and created an independent Palestinian state. Arafat walked out of the meetings. Why? Because one of the concessions the Palestinians had to offer was peace with Israel something the Palestinians do NOT want. Arafat knew he could not sell that concept politically to the Palestinians. President Clinton laid the blame for the failure right where it belonged….at the feet of the Palestinians. So, who is really oppressed?

  55. Morningstar says:

    Not at all similiar to the terrorist scarf. Rachel’s is very pretty and looks NOTHING like a keffiyah. Relax, people, and stop looking for reasons to gripe.

    did you really just call it a terrorist scarf?

  56. Regan says:

    I read this on another blog, who referred me to your blog. The news article that was listed there was aggrevating. I think that the important message is lost in all of the predjudice that was read in that article.

    I think that a right-wing blogger making an association between a kaffiyeh and terrorism is just an example of how so much of the complexity of Arab culture has been reduced to a very narrow vision of the Arab world on the part of some people in the U.S.,” Bishara said in a phone interview. “Kaffiyehs are worn every day on the street by Palestinians and other people in the Middle East — by people going to work, going to school, taking care of their families, and just trying to keep warm.

    “… to a very narrow vision of the Arab world on the part of some people in the U.S.”

    Either we are radically desensitized by what is preceived to be subtle messages of hate and terrorism, or we’re over sensitive. Taking an example of a media source driven commercial like “Dunkin Donuts” and blowing out of proportion is only going to enable the already hate filled American soul. Making a quick assumption and connection like “Rachel Ray is supporting Islam/Muslim terrorisim because of a scarf” is like saying every White American who wears a white robe with a hood is a supremist.

    We need to slow down our discrimination and stop looking at everybody as a threat; keeping our guards up is a healthy notion, but assuming everyone is out to blow up our buildings, schools and seeing our neighbors as hidden terrorists has gone far beyond what could ever have been imagined.

    Ok.. off my soap box now.

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  60. RO says:

    Let’s face it. The only reason Malkin writes this crap is to generate hits on her otherwise irrelevent blog. Look at the huge amount of attention this brings to her website and herself. The more outragous the comment she can make about this issue the longer she can keep her pathetic little ego afloat. Ignore her. She is the crazy person standing over there on the fringes of society waving her arms and screaming.

  61. Jean-François says:

    Speaking of swastikas, one of our local cities has had to put a section on their website that points out that the swastika-decorated lampposts in some parts of their town actually predate the Nazi Party by a decade. The swastika was a very common design element in the 1920s, which was why the Nazis adopted it as a symbol.

    Doubtful, it was already a symbol of the occult, pro-aryan, anti-semitic groups in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.

    “That the origins of the Nazi party can be traced to the lodge organisation of the Thule Society is fact. However, there were only two points in which the NSDAP was a successor to the Thule Society. One is the use of the swastika.”

    “According to Heinar Schilling, the Germanic peoples of the Late Bronze Age had adopted a four-spoke wheel as symbolic of the sun “and this symbol has been developed into the modern swastika of our own society [i.e. Nazi Germany] which represents the sun.” Under the sign of the swastika “the light bringers of the Nordic race overran the lands of the dark inferior races, and it was no coincidence that the most powerful expression of the Nordic world was found in the sign of the swastika”.

    ^from Wikipedia

  62. Mnemosyne says:

    Doubtful, it was already a symbol of the occult, pro-aryan, anti-semitic groups in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.

    I’m not in Germany. I’m in the United States. California, to be exact. And the swastika has a much longer and much broader history than you seem to be willing to admit.

    It turns up out here in California because of its long history with Native Americans, especially the Navajo people.

    Does that mean that people displaying German-style swastikas since the 1930s aren’t Nazis or Nazi sympathizers? Of course not. But trying to claim that lampposts manufactured in California in the early 1900s are somehow related to the Nazi use of the same symbol two decades later is idiotic.

  63. ok, so, what if i now want to wear a keffiyah all the time to both express my support for palestine AND how ridiculous it is of the conservative bloggers to even make such a statement about the scarf/ad? i admit i am a fashion whore, but i also follow (participate) in politics. so can i wear it and have it mean something? do i need to have a base level of knowledge about palestine or the history of the scarf or current state of peace negotiations not to just be another mindless hipster? (not that they are all mindless)

  64. Betty says:

    While I agree this is ridiculous because her scarf looks simply like a scarf, I’d like to play the devel’s advocate. We must remember symbols have always represented an important part of all cultures throughout time. Had Rachel Ray worn a swastika arm band or white hood the world would have been appalled. I am amazed that certain forms of dress have become en vogue. As an expatriate from the U.S. it disturbs me that we can be so insensitive especially after 911 and I can only attribute this to ignorance. For many of us living elsewhere in the world, we see up close what these symbols represent. These organizations and governments actively support the suppression of women, the banning of freedom of religion and speech, and the tacit acceptance of violence against innocent human beings all in the name of a cause or belief. Have we become so P.C. that we refuse to tell the truth or are we somehow hoping that our own human/democratic values are also shared by all? Read, listen and observe. Actions always speak louder than words. Remember, symbols are powerful messages!

  65. Jeff Al-Koheni says:

    When did the Keffiyot become anti-Jew? It’s the tradtional garb in may places in the middle east worn by Jew, Muslim, and Christian alike.
    A lot traditional Temanim (Jews from Yemen) still wear them like this man here.

    http://www.yobserver.com/front-page/10014026.html

  66. Jean-François says:

    I am merely taking issue with your assertion that the Nazis adopted it as a symbol because of its ostensible aesthetic popularity when, in fact, in German/Nordic occultism it already projected overtones of racial “superiority.” I suppose I should have been more judicious in my quotation of your comment.

  67. Holly says:

    Remember, symbols are powerful messages!

    Good lord, did you even read the original post?

  68. Mnemosyne says:

    Actions always speak louder than words. Remember, symbols are powerful messages!

    In other places, I’ve compared this whole controversy to the Procter & Gamble man-in-the-moon logo. Over the years, various people have tried to claim that it’s a secret symbol of Satanism and P&G occasionally gets flooded with letters from people who demand they remove the symbol from their packaging. Rightfully, they have always refused, because IT’S NOT A SATANIC SYMBOL. It’s been their logo for a century, and it’s not their fault that crazy people have come up with a story about it.

    Similarly, what Rachael Ray is wearing in the commercial is NOT A KAFFIYEH. It’s a paisley black-and-white fringed scarf that looks kinda vaguely like a kaffiyeh if you look at a small picture of it and — more importantly — if you have your fear of “Islamofascism” meter turned up so high that anything that even vaguely resembles a kaffiyeh MUST be sending a secret signal to “Islamofascists” that you support them.

    Sorry, but this is not like the Native American-inspired swastikas in Glendale that predate the Nazis. This is people who are trying to insist that their dog is actually a cat, and if you can’t see that their dog is a cat, and you refuse to call their dog a cat, YOU’RE ONE OF THEM!!!!!

    If we’ve gotten to the point that we have to ban things because they kinda vaguely resemble something else if you’re not really paying attention, that’s pretty sad.

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  70. Jon says:

    Why would you want to look like Yassir Arafat? I cannot disassociate the keffiyah from angry, molotov cocktail throwing youths in Gaza. But that’s just me. I do get the creeps when I see people wearing that rag. I hope nobody gets the fashion idea to sew six pointed yellow stars on their sweaters. I mean, common, it’s just a yellow star, right?

  71. Mnemosyne says:

    Why would you want to look like Yassir Arafat? I cannot disassociate the keffiyah from angry, molotov cocktail throwing youths in Gaza. But that’s just me. I do get the creeps when I see people wearing that rag.

    Apparently you also get the creeps when someone is wearing a paisley scarf that kinda vaguely resembles a keffiyah if you squint at a very small picture, because that’s what Ray is wearing. A paisley scarf with fringe.

    When you see something that isn’t there, shouldn’t you start worrying about why you’re seeing something that isn’t there rather than try and insist that the problem is that someone wore something that kinda-sorta looked like it? If a keffiyah is so disturbing to you that you get upset by any black-and-white scarf with a fringe on it, then it’s not really the scarf’s fault, is it?

  72. Jon says:

    Ok, it happens to only look like a keffiyah. But that’s distorting the real question. The issue is whether wearing a keffiyah can be innocently worn without making a political statement. And I would answer, speaking only for my own reaction to seeing it, no. I do believe those who wear it are painfully ignorant and many intend no charged message but the keffiyah itself is a symbol of uprising and more. It is not simply a scarf.

  73. Holly says:

    It ought to be possible to wear the keffiyah as a political statement. But sadly, it’s almost impossible now because the symbol has become so diluted by fashion. Nobody can deny that if you see a random person walking down the street wearing a keffiyah, you have no idea what they mean by it, whether it’s a political statement or not. That’s why the meaning is lost — it’s become an undifferentiated soup, at least outside of certain contexts where the political message is clarified.

    All of this is besides the point of the whole Dunkin Donuts thing, because that scarf doesn’t even REALLY look at all like a keffiyah if you look at it for more than a second. The idea that ANY black and white scarf with tassels resembles a keffiyah and therefore may be a political statement is so ludicrously over-broad that it simply serves to dilute the matter further and make it even more impossible to discern any meaningful political statement.

    And then the last part is this: yes, for some people, wearing a keffiyah is their way of saying “I support the Palestinian struggle for autonomy and independence.” As an individual, they mean it as clearly as if they were holding a sign that says the same thing — whether it can still be perceived by anyone else that way, distinguished from “fashion statements,” is another question. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing a keffiyah that way any more than there is anything wrong with holding up a sign with those words on it. Neither one means that you support Yasser Arafat specifically; neither one means you are anti-Semitic, or support terrorism, or love it when youths throw molotovs and are run over by tanks. Those are distortions of the political reasons people started wearing keffiyahs. And a lot of the people who started wearing keffiyahs this way were left-wing Jews and Israelis, I might add!!

  74. Mnemosyne says:

    Ok, it happens to only look like a keffiyah. But that’s distorting the real question.

    No, it’s not. You are arguing “but WHAT IF” it were something that it’s not. You’re trying to change the topic.

    Sorry, but I’m sick and tired of being told that I have to admit something that’s patently false and let people move the goalposts so they can bolster what was a stupid argument in the first place.

    Again, it’s not Dunkin’ Donuts’ fault or Rachael Ray’s fault that people squinted at a tiny picture and decided they were seeing something that wasn’t there. If a picture of the Loch Ness Monster has been proven to be an optical illusion, I’m not willing to move on to an argument about what the monster might eat if it existed without addressing the fact that what you thought you saw was never there in the first place.

  75. ummm, yeah, ugly scarf. She should wear a pretty pink satin or silk scarf to go with the pretty dogwood trees.

  76. Mnemosyne says:

    If we’re going to talk about appropriation of symbolism from foreign cultures that travels to the US and becomes kitsch, then we need to talk about stuff like the Red Square bar in Las Vegas, which uses the trappings of the Soviet era to sell overpriced vodka.

    I think that using the symbols of a murderous dictatorship for that purpose is probably a lot more upsetting to a lot more people (like, say, many of the Armenians who have immigrated to the United States and congregated in the western states) than a vaguely kaffiyeh-looking scarf showing up in a TV commercial. But, then, we’re talking about people who actually suffered through living in the Soviet Union under that regime. Comparing their sufferings to 9/11 is pretty out of proportion.

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  81. pappy says:

    Interesting. Its racism of course, plain and simple. Its like if Coke pulled a Bill Cosby ad because his black skin was insensitive to people who had had crimes committed against them by people with black skin.

    I don’t think Dunkin Donuts or capitalism in general is racist in itself. Its just a basic tool in the toolbox for splitting people up, keeping them disorganized and breaking down the social bonds that lead people to have supportive feelings about each other. This de-socialization is really a key element in getting wealth and decision making into the hands of private power. Divide and conquer. Identity politics. Its complicated ‘tho. You have to pick a vulnerable target to match the situation, and you can’t go too far, or it can backfire. Right now in many situations of course Arabic peoples are the vulnerable target. A good media person has good instincts here, that’s how you get ahead in the game and maximize funding from the advertisers. Michelle Malkin’s nationally syndicated column is doing very well.

    On her website it looks like she’s also having fun with several other people dividers. Illegal immigrants is a great program of course, it attacks us on so many levels. It incorporates racism, but also increases the percentage of the working class who have no political or social rights at all. It drives down wages, pitting legal and illegal sectors of the working class against each other instead of uniting in common interest against the ruling class, etc. That’s why we have it, not porous borders. Other countries with more difficult borders maintain 100% control when they want to. In Europe they chose to use the “guest worker” program to split people up, some of the ruling class wants to implement that in the US now, that’s what they’re talking about on the TV when they say “immigration reform”.

    More interesting on the web site is how Malkin is working on splitting up the coffee drinkers. Dunkin Donuts (“conservative”) vs. Starbucks (“liberal”). This corresponds to a big effort here throughout the media, check it out on your computer. Its usually in the context of “conservative” verses “liberal”. Consistent efforts to portray country music as “conservative” and rock music as “liberal”, gun nuts as “conservative” and non-gun nuts as “liberal”, Christians as conservative, etc. Which of course in the reality of everyday people is bullshit. The Beach Boys are Reaganites and Merl Haggard loves Hilary Clinton, etc. Right wing gays and hippys abound, I know some. The actual social mores of a “conservative” bible belt person of course exceed the wildest decadent fantasies of your stereotypical “east coast liberal” intellectual.

  82. Kreutznauer says:

    Ok. The scarf may or may not be good fashion, bad fashion, a political statement, or a sad attempt thereto by a Food Network tv chef. Whatever. There is this certainty: Dunkin Donuts pulled the ad. Over something contrived and inane, this corporation pulled the ad. If you feel that was a cowardly, pathetic, ludicrous thing to do for this contrived, pathetic, ludicrous bit of right-wing effluvia, then, leave this site and go to Dunkin Donuts’ site and tell them. Then, stop buying their products. Remind your friends to stop buying their products. If you own or operate a coffee shop put out a sign telling the world that YOU did not pull an ad because an idiot suggested you should. Buy some cops donuts and coffee from someplace not Dunkin Donuts. Make them LOSE money. It is the appropriate response to this sort of non-sense.

  83. adybee says:

    If you are frightened of a black and white scarf I reckon the terrorists are already winning…

  84. J.O. says:

    I would just like to know if Palestinian people find Americans(or anyone not really of thier religion and beliefs) wearing Keffiyehs offensive or disrespectful because I recently start seeing people wear them, but until I saw this article I didn’t know how to feel about it…Can somebody please tell me bcuz the main thing for me personally is not to wear it if it offends people who orignally wore them as a religious symbol or whatever.

  85. J.O. says:

    Nevermind. I recently did a little research and found out more about the Keffiyeh, how people view it, and basically why I shouldn’t wear one myslef(no disrespect to anybody who does whear one though).

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