US demand for Palestinian keffiyehs rises despite targeting of wearers | Israel-Palestine conflict updates

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The keffiyeh, a distinctive patterned scarf closely linked with Palestinians, has been gaining popularity in the United States. People are wearing it to demand a ceasefire to Israel’s attacks on Gaza or to show their support for Palestinians. Sales of the scarves have increased since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. US distributors have reported a surge in sales, despite some protests where keffiyehs have been forcibly removed by security forces and wearers have been targeted for verbal and physical abuse.

Azar Aghayev, the US distributor for Hirbawi, the only manufacturer of keffiyehs left in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said that sales of the scarves skyrocketed. The company’s stock was quickly sold out, and unit sales of keffiyeh scarves have risen 75 percent on Amazon.com. Searches for “Palestinian scarf for women” and other related terms have also increased significantly.

The keffiyeh is a common symbol throughout the Arab world and has been associated with Palestinian resistance since the 1936 Arab Revolt. While Hirbawi is the best-known manufacturer, others include small artisans and global copycats. The scarf has also been sold by luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton.

However, US supporters of the Palestinians and Israel have faced threats and attacks since the Middle East conflict began. Jewish Americans have seen an increase in anti-Semitism, and Muslim Americans have experienced an uptick in Islamaphobia. People wearing keffiyehs have been targeted for verbal abuse and physical attacks.

At the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting in November, a security guard forcibly removed a keffiyeh from a protester. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented several instances of people targeted for wearing a keffiyeh, including a father assaulted on a Brooklyn playground and a Harvard University graduate student who was told she was wearing a “terrorist” scarf.

In the most serious incident, three college students of Palestinian descent were shot in Burlington, Vermont, while taking a walk last month. Hisham Awartani, 20, is paralysed from the chest down. Authorities have charged a suspect with attempted murder in the shootings and are investigating whether it was a hate-motivated crime.

Despite the risks, demand for keffiyehs remains high. Sellers have reported that they could have sold thousands more if they had them in stock. However, some people, like Anna Rajagopal, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, have been cautious about wearing their keffiyehs in public spaces due to safety concerns.

The keffiyeh has become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians and a statement against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. As the conflict continues, the keffiyeh has become a powerful and controversial symbol in the United States.

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