Were the keffiyehs at Urban Outfitters fairly traded?

A keffiyeh is perhaps more commonly known as a ‘PLOscarf’ although I read (several years ago in a good but out-of-print book called ‘My Enemy My Self‘ by Yoram Binur which I can recommend – in the tradition of John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me and Jack London’s People of The Abyss, an Israeli journalist passes himself off as an Arab Israeli to see how the other half live) that only black ones indicated support for Fatah whereas the red ones were for the communists. Whatever the colour, to me it’s an icon of Palestinian nationalism. A couple of years back though, to most within striking distance of an Urban Outfitters it was an item of ethnic fashion.

In these times of heightened consciousness of the Palestinian economy and the requirement that it be mixed and not so reliant on the olive, I found myself idley wondering if the keffiyehs so denuded of political significance by fashion retail train Urban Outfitters were fairly traded.

I found out that they weren’t quite so denuded of political significance as I thought – apparently there was “the retailer’s decision to label the item an “anti-war woven scarf””. And then:

“A blogger named Mobius, posting Jan. 16 on Jewschool, a Jewish blog that targets a young audience, blasted Urban Outfitters for selling kaffiyehs. Taking issue with the retailer’s decision to label the item an “anti-war woven scarf,” Mobius posted pictures of terrorists adorned in kaffiyehs.

The same day Urban Outfitters, which had offered the scarves in several color combinations for $20, pulled them from stores. Its Web site posted this explanation: “Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale. We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention.””

I didn’t find out whether they were ever fairly traded though (to be honest I didn’t try too hard – they are currently dead to fashion). They bloody should have been – although I think we both know that they were almost certainly made in China, and that the people who bought them didn’t mind. Uh-huhthey were.

Why didn’t organisations like Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods campaign about this? They swear blind that everything they do is for the sake of occupied Palestinians. Well, the clue is in the name – equating anti-Zionism with actual support for Palestinians is often a mistake.

I also read that the red keffiyeh indicates support for Hamas these days. Which I found pretty poignant given what’s been going on on the so-called left in recent years.

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3 thoughts on “Were the keffiyehs at Urban Outfitters fairly traded?

  1. Yep, dress it up how you like, in a keffiyeh, some yellow drainpipe jeans, and some white-framed shades and take a photo-sorry-LOMOgraph of it, the truth is that Urban Outfitters are The Man, Big Biz and a High Street Bully.

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