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PNN exclusive / Hiba Lama – Roving the streets of the West Bank it becomes clear that the traditional kaffiya is going the way of falafel and hummus. Under an occupation that targets to cleanse all aspects of Palestinian life, including the cultural and economic, heritage is under attack.
The Israelis already took the traditional Arab falafel and hummus and now market them as “the national Israeli dish," a Birzeit University student told PNN today.
The kaffiya, a symbol of Palestinian resistance, is facing a similar fate.
The traditional Palestinian black and white is slowly being replaced in shops by a dye washed kaffiya that becomes nothing more than a fashionable scarf. The original colors are being muted and bled into pinks and greens, brown and blue dies. “The colors are endless,” the Birzeit University student notes. “And many of the students traded in the real black and white, the one that reflects Palestinian identity, and are wearing these scarves as a replacement of the symbol of our resistance.”
Concerns over the color do not apply to the long-standing plain red and white that is worn predominantly in Jordan and is also the common dress of the Palestinian leftist parties.
Maha Saca of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem says the Israelis are flooding West Bank markets in an attempt to obliterate Palestinian identity.
Ramallah school student Sandra Abbasi told PNN, “We reject these colored kaffiyas because they do not reflect the Palestinian identity and are foreign to us. The goal of them is to erase our identity and transform the kaffiya from a symbol of patriotism to the cry of fashion.”
She said today that among her classmates are those who refuse the trend. Together they made a video in an attempt to reflect the seriousness of the issue. “We need to preserve Palestinian identity and stop participating in the endless attempts to obliterate it.”
Her Ramallah school instituted a ban on wearing the colored kaffiyas within its gates to underscore the importance of students becoming aware of the myriad levels on which the occupation works.
West Bank store shelves are flooded with Israeli products after closures, destruction of agricultural land and production facilities, high tariffs and bans on specific imports/exports made it difficult for Palestinian industry to compete. Omnipresent product boycotts have varying degrees of success depending on the time and climate. Under occupation one is often hard pressed to find Arab products in some West Bank towns. As part of the process, the Israelis export their goods into the West Bank at normally cheaper prices.
The Birzeit University woman said, “Israel is trying to take our heritage and have stolen it in droves, from our dance to falafel and hummus. We are afraid they will do the same with our headdress. We are fighting this trend because we do not want to lose our heritage in full. The kaffiya is part of our heritage and must be preserved and protected from adoption and theft.”
Director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem, Maha Saca, confirms the seriousness of the phenomenon. She is among community leaders who are petitioning the municipality to ban the sale of the colored kaffiyas.
“The aim of this phenomenon is to distort and disguise this part of Arab identity to the point that it will disappear within a year or two,” Saca told PNN, adding that the kaffiya has been the symbol of Palestinian resistance since 1936.
The formal appeal to the Tourism Ministry and Tourist Police headquartered in Bethlehem was drafted by Saca and requires them to prevent the sale of such goods in the city.
“The hand of the Israelis is hidden in this serious issue that seeks to obscure and obliterate Palestinian identity and the Palestinian entity,” she added. The black and white kaffiya is known as the most important symbol of Palestinian resistance in all its forms.