Friday, January 19, 2007

US chain pulls 'anti-war' keffiyehs

"Urban Outfitters, a popular American clothing store, on Thursday halted sales of a range of keffiyehs, the traditional Arab headdress, which it had been marketing this month as fashionable "anti-war woven scarves."

The firm's CEO, Dick Heyne, e-mailed a pro-Israel activist who had complained about the items earlier this week to stress that the company had not intended "to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism" in selling the keffiyehs and was pulling them.

The scarves, also sold on-line, were priced at $20 in several different color combinations as part of Urban Outfitters' Spring Fashion women's accessories range. "Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale," a notice on the Web site stated. "We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention."

A manager at an Urban Outfitters on 6th Avenue in New York City close to the West Village, who wished to remain anonymous, said the item had been the "number one selling scarf."

The keffiyeh has bounced in and out of American and European fashion trends since roughly the 80s, when women draped them from their necks. But in the last few years the headdress, mostly associated by Americans with the Palestinians and especially the late Yasser Arafat, has reached a height of popularity. An article in the Los Angeles Times titled "'Terrorist Chic' and Beyond," published in April, 2006, featured the keffiyeh as the ultimate in fashionable military gear seen as chic in hip circles across America and Europe.

Many young Americans and Europeans, especially on college campuses, wear the headdress around their necks as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinians. Increasingly, too, it has become a symbol of resistance in general, invariably featuring at anti-war rallies. It is also widely worn in many cities.

"I just found it amusing that the keffiyeh as a fashion item has become so ubiquitous that it is being sold at a store known for producing the trendiest items," said Daniel 'Mobius' Sieradski, a contributor to Jewschool, a popular Jewish blog. "It's amusing because on one level the Palestinian cause has become very popular, but as it gains popularity it gets watered down."......."

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