Keffiyeh Kerfuffle Down Under

With the blog-triggered Dunkin’ Donuts keffiyeh controversy receiving quite a bit of airplay in the mainstream media, another keffiyeh controversy is now being reported from Australia.

And the story has a number of interesting aspects. For a start, the complaints have not just originated from those who deplore the ubiquitization of palestinian terror chic. Palestinians have also taken offense – for very different reasons.

The “keffiyeh kerfuffle” – which forced Dunkin’ Donuts to dump an ad featuring a celebrity chef wearing a scarf similar to a traditional Arab head-dress – has hit a Bondi bottleshop, one of its staff claims.

Sandra Tieger, 20, alleged to she began to feel like a terrorism supporter following the reaction to her wearing a black and white scarf to work at Kemeny’s.

Ms Tieger’s claims – which the store rejects – follow attacks on an ad for the US Dunkin’ Donuts chain, in which celebrity chef Rachael Ray wore a scarf. Critics have said the scarf has “violent symbolism and anti-Israel overtones”.

But Ms Tieger said she had “no idea about the politics” when she bought the scarf at the Tree Of Life store.

“I thought it was a nice scarf, a cowboy scarf. I thought: ‘It’s black and white, no-one will say anything to me because that’s all we can wear [with our work uniform]’.

“A Palestinian customer came up and asked me if I’m wearing this scarf as a fashion statement or for political reasons.

“I had no idea what he was talking about because I don’t follow politics at all. I just laughed it off.

“Two days later he called and complained about it.”

Shevonne Hunt, a freelance journalist who has reported on the keffiyeh’s popularity in Australia, said many Palestinians were annoyed the widespread use of the keffiyeh for fashion had watered down its meaning.

In other words, palestinians are annoyed that the keffiyeh’s violent symbolism is being watered down by its widespread use. Which reinforces what an emotive symbol of terrorism it really is.

The story has another interesting yet troubling aspect. While many Jews have justifiably taken offense to the keffiyeh, not so the head of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said the wearing of the keffiyeh as a fashion item was a “non-issue”.

“It’s a non-issue as far as we are concerned. If someone chooses to wear such an item for whatever reason that’s their choice.”

This is the same Vic Alhadeff who earlier this year raised concerns over two NSW stores that had been selling Nazi memorabilia and clothing, saying it “sends a very unfortunate and dangerous message for people to be openly displaying Nazi insignia, given what the Nazis stood for and given that Australia fought against the Nazis.

Why isn’t Mr Alhadeff also indignant over the widespread wearing of keffiyehs, given what “palestinian terrorists stand for”? Because let’s face it, the main difference between them and the Nazis is the numbers.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media