The blogosphere can cough up a lot of interesting controversies. This week’s revolved around a Dunkin Donuts’ online ad featuring Rachel Ray in a scarf similar to the Arab keffiyeh which has come to symbolize Palestinian militantism. The company pulled the spot after conservative commentators, most notably Michelle Malkin, harshly criticized Ray’s clothing choice, claiming the scarf was a symbolic support of terrorism.

Well, Malkin and others are correct that the keffiyeh has become a radicalized symbol and it wouldn’t be going too far to say it is at least as offensive a symbol as, say, the Confederate battle flag. But unlike the Confederate flag, the keffiyeh is not so easily identified. I, for one, did not recognize Rachel Ray’s scarf as anything other than a black-and-white scarf. And not even Malkin is accusing Ray or Dunkin Donuts of supporting radical Palestinian causes. Malkin assumes the parties involved were ignorant of the scarf’s symbolism.

Thing is, keffiyeh-chic has already invaded the mainstream. To me, commercializing this symbol does more to strip it of its meaning than does any offended protest by the likes of Michelle Malkin. Then again, I probably wouldn’t say the same thing about swastikas used as fashion accessories. The difference, I think, is that the keffiyeh is simply not a well-known or well-understood symbol.

Does a symbol lose its power when its wearer is ignorant of its meaning? And are people like Malkin overreacting for political reasons? My first thought was that Malkin is an idiot. But looking into the matter, the symbol is offensive, particularly to Jews. And while some can say the keffiyeh is just a symbol of Palestinian pride, some also say the Confederate flag is nothing more than a symbol of Southern pride.

Symbols are a difficult business because they only mean what people say they mean. Wearing a keffiyeh-like scarf in an ad for an American donut company in no way aids or even gives comforts to Palestinian militantism. Then again, if the keffiyeh is going to be a fashion accessory, people should at least be aware of its meaning and not unwittingly show support for a cause in which they don’t believe. In that sense, Malkin was not wrong for speaking up, even if it seems like a rather shrill complaint about a rather small matter. What do you think?

  • Think about it this way…It would never occur to anyone in the West to wear a kaffiyeh for any reason, if it hadn’t been made popular over the past 30 years or so by Palestinian terrorists.

  • First, the Keffiyeh has been around FAR longer than the past 30 years. So to say it’s a symbol of terrorism is disingenuous. It’s not. But it can be in the eye of the beholder.

    Second, when people start talking about the Confederate flag being offensive, Malkin and her motley crew start going after them for being too politically correct.

    So then, if somebody is offended, that’s fine. They should speak out. But they should do so consistently, not when it suits them to so they can appeal to a specific political audience. Malkin has been guilty of this for quite some time, which is why she’s known far and wide as a sad, political hack.

    However, I did side with her when the proposed memorial for Flight 93 was going to be a red crescent. I don’t think I have to explain why that didn’t make a lot of sense…especially in the context of the memorial, etc.

    The answers are never easy. Personally, I think Washington’s football team shouldn’t be the Redskins. That’s HUGELY offensive, but they haven’t changed it.

  • Rogue

    The confederate flag is about treason. It was the enemy of America and is very little different from waving a Taliban flag. By waving it you are rubbing the noses of the proud American that you are different and still consider yourself ‘against’ the rest of us.

    It’s a completely vile symbol and I don’t know why we put up with it.

  • Bob

    The swastika is thousands of years old but no one would ever think of wearing it or putting it on a logo.

  • The kaffiyeh’s meaning has nothing to do with terrorism. It’s a traditional garment worn by countless Arab men of all political stripes, some of whom are also to be terrorists. Some coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan wear them, too. Is that also problem.

    Michelle Malkin’s fuss is political correctness hypocrisy.

  • The point is, it wouldn’t be fashionable, and no one here in the west would even know what one looked like, if the PLO and Hamas hadn’t put the image of the Kaffiyeh on TV while rallying with AK 47’s and blowing up Jews.., er, “resisting occupatuion.” The Palestinians themselves have adopted the Kaffiyeh (the black one, not the red one) – which is traditionally manufactured and worn by Arabs in the levant, as a symbol of “resistance.” They are the ones deliberately associating the kaffiyeh with terror, not the right-wing bloggers.

    Hear hear(!) to Rouge’s point about the Confederate flag.

  • TerenceC


    It’s not a symbol of resistance – it’s a symbol of how F’ing hot it is there and the need to keep the sun off exposed skin, create shade, and absorb some sweat. The colors are more accurately reflected as “tribal” rather than political.

  • john

    Since WWII German soldiers wore helmets that look like the current U.S. military helmet, we must be secretly trying to bring about the 4th Reich.
    Your first thought about Malkin was correct, she is an idiot.

  • Frankly, this is some serious mountain of a molehill stuff. Except that in the case of Dunkin Donuts, the molehill really didn’t even exist. Malkin and LGF never really had any credibility to begin with, but if it wasn’t obvious before, it sure is now.

  • Deen

    I see alot of those scarves being worn around campus and the city and to be honest i don’t think the majority of people know what it means! I definatly don’t think that anyone saw it on TV during terrrorist attacks and political movements and immediatly thought to themsevles, i know i should wear that beacuse it looks cool!! Most people think its just a neat pattern not that its a political statement, and to assume that the majority of people are wearing it for any reason other than fashion is probably wrong. Im not saying that this is a good thing and its right, but ignorance of the general public here in North America is more common than anyone cares to admit.

  • Kelli

    I think that the Keffiyeh is a beautiful and comfortable scarf. It keeps you warm when it’s cold and it keeps you cool when it’s hot. The simple two tone color scheme allows it to be worn with just about any color. I love the fringy bits.

    I understand that many people associate this scarf with terrorists, but I agree with Alan’s original article: If everyone starts wearing them, it will dilute any negative symbolism. Soon terrorists may be riduculed for wearing scarfs made by The Gap. If you refuse to give a symbol any power, it will have none. The more we talk about the Keffiyeh as a symbol of terrorism, the more it is. I just don’t buy it.