Where wearing the keffiyeh gets you assaulted by the police

You might be very surprised indeed to hear where wearing the keffiyeh is effectively illegal.

The keffiyeh is a widely recognised symbol of Palestinian Arab nationalism. While it has been worn across the Middle East for centuries, this distinctive type of scarf has become increasingly identified with Palestinians after being popularised by Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader, Yasser Arafat. The style of keffiyeh that Arafat wore was typically a black and white design with a black fishnet pattern on a white background.

In western countries, critics of Israel and those who oppose its existence increasingly sport this type of keffiyeh to openly show their political stance. Prominent among these are Roger Waters, Jeremy Corbyn, and Gerry Adams. During a debate on the Israel-Palestine issue in the Dáil last May, several anti-Israel TDs wore face masks based on that pattern.

Gesture politics

Whatever one thinks of such gesture politics, it would be unthinkable in any western democratic county that they could be considered illegal, never mind resulting in physical assault by police on those wearing them. For example, they’re openly on sale in Israel – often side by side with kippahs in the same shops and stalls!

And yet, in the last few days, students in one city were attacked by the police for wearing their keffiyehs and these were then confiscated by the police. Where was this, you may ask? Was it in Israel? Was it perhaps in Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv or Haifa or Ashdod? It wasn’t and as an aside, if such an incident had happened in Israel, the UN Security Council could quite possibly be in emergency session by now.

Sibling hatred rather than brotherly love

As reported by the IsraellyCool website, the above incident happened in Hamas-controlled Gaza City. The reason the Hamas police took the actions they did is because the keffiyeh worn by the students is principally associated with Fatah. The folks in Hamas hate Jews but they also hate their so-called “Palestinian brothers” in Fatah, slaughtering dozens of them in a brief and bloody civil war in 2007.

Painful reminder to critics of Israel

This incident should serve as one more painful reminder to those who think that Israel is the main obstacle to the emergence of a unitary Palestine state. By far the biggest obstacle is the loathing between the main Palestinian factions. Meanwhile, all those right-on people who regularly don their keffiyehs might ponder the irony that while they can wear those white and black fishnet-patterned scarves anywhere in Israel, the same item of clothing might well attract some unpleasant attention from the police in Gaza.

By Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh

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