Chapter One: Fox News commentator and right-of-Attila blogger Michelle Malkin complains that celebrity food maven Rachael Ray appears in a Dunkin’ Donut Ad wearing a scarf that looks like a keffiyeh, the traditional headdress worn by Arab men. The keffiyeh “has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad,” she writes.
Chapter Two: Dunkin’ Donuts cancels the ad, releasing a statement:
In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design. It was selected by her stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, given the possibility of misperception, we are no longer using the commercial.
Chapter Three: “An interfaith group that includes rabbis blasted Dunkin’ Donuts for yielding to pressure to pull an ad featuring a keffiyeh”:
“Enough already,” Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, [The Interfaith Alliance] president, said in a statement. “Have we really reached the point where we are associating wearing a scarf of Middle Eastern origin with terrorist sympathies? Should we apply this standard to everything that comes from the Middle East? Or are we only applying this standard to our wardrobe?”
My two cents: We’re stuck between two imponderables: If Rachael Ray wears a faux keffiyeh, do the terrorists win? If Dunkin’ Donuts caves to bloggers, does Michelle Malkin win?
DD made a business decision: If enough people read the scarf Malkin’s way, that’s bad for business. And truth be told, Rev. Gaddy, I don’t think it’s bloggers alone who have made the keffiyeh a symbol of terrorism. Noble Arab tradition it may be, but Arafat and company are certainly implicated in turning an item of “Middle East origin” into a symbol of Palestinian nationalism — and in turn making suicide bombing the signature tactic of that movement.
But here’s aquestion of context: What if DD ran an ad featuring people all over the world drinking their coffee, and one of them happens to be a Semitic-lookng guy in a keffiyeh, or a woman in a Hijab? If Malkin complained, that’s just bigotry. What’s her message then: “To portray an Arab is to suport terrorism”?
But the Ray thing is different — wrapped around an obvious non-Arab, a piece of indigenous dress is more easily interpreted as a gesture of solidarity. If a nobody like me wears a yarmulke on TV, viewers think “Jew.” If Russell Simmons wears one, viewers think, “Hip hop mogul who is making a statement in support of Jews.”
And if an Arab blogger complained? If it were a big crocheted kippah with the words ”Hebron Forever” on the side, they’d have a point. In Israel, the pie-sized knitted kippah can be interpreted as a symbol of the settler movement. But the semiotics of kippot is understood only within a fairly small set of Jews and some Arabs, and hasn’t any traction in popular culture.
In conclusion: Malkin’s an alarmist, but DD and Ray made a mistake in picking wardrobe that could be read as a political statement. Especially if you’re just flacking coffee.