Your Intifada was Made in China: Commodity Fetishism Killing Palestine

A version of this is up at Mother Jones, but this one is too hard for the homepage.

annefrankkeffiyeh

Oh the keffiyeh. How long have I waited, in vain, for you to die? Before it was the emblem of the hipster generation, the keffiyeh (spelled many ways but worn only one) was the preferred and only headdress for PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and the symbol of Palestinian nationalism. What fatigues were to Fidel, the oragamied scarf was to Arafat.

Thanks to an late aughts explosion of popuarity, the symbol of intifada is now second only to the Che t-shirt for its global ubiquity and collegiate rebel chic. Today, you can buy this fashion juggernaut from half of all street vendors on Earth for a cool five bucks. There are in existance people who are “too cool” for the keffiyeh, but in all my wanderings through Williamsburg, the Mission and Silverlake, I haven’t met them. If Urban Outfitters and Rachel Ray couldn’t kill it, it seemed as though nothing could.

For all of you who were waiting on the “I told you so” moment, here it is.

According to a heart-wrenchingly earnest video by web-magazine Monocle, the global keffiyeh craze  is about to force Mr. Hirbawi, 76, the last keffiyeh factory owner in Palestine, out of business.

That’s because the one you’re wearing (and, increasingly, they ones they’re wearing) are made in China. Ironically, global support for Palestinian-statehood-as-fashion-accessory has put yet another nail in the coffin of the Occupied Territories’ beleaguered economy.

Here’s how it happened: Back in ’87, during the first intifada, intifadniks couldn’t get enough of Mr. Hirbawi’s $25 scarves. Looser export restricitons meant that Israelis could rep them too, and slowly but surely the scarf and its emblematic pattern began appearing in the West. By the time the second intifada rolled around in 2000,  hardcore activists and the super cool already had them. Somewhere between then and now, the keffiyeh reached its tipping point, and hipsters’ insatiable lust for the scarf lured Chinese manufactures into the gig. Being the Chinese, they were able to undercut the Palestinians by an order of magnitide, and out-export them at every turn. Fast forward about a decade, and globalization killed the keffiyeh.

Is it yet another case of globalization ruining the world, or are Chinese keffiyehs just a natural outgrowth of Marx’s commodity fetishism? After all, what can’t be commodified these days?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Brooklyn, Eastside, Economy, Israel, Palestine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s