There've always been a lot of people who've criticized Rachael Ray, the bubbly Food Network host. I'm one of them. Still, I can't say I ever thought anyone would get overwrought enough about Ray to actually accuse her of "mainstreaming terrorism." Then again, I hadn't counted on Charles Johnson, who runs the right-wing blog Little Green Footballs.
Ray provoked Johnson's ire with an online ad she's in for Dunkin' Donuts in which she can be seen wearing a keffiyeh, a traditional item of clothing in the Arab world. In a post headlined, "Mainstreaming Terrorism to Sell Donuts," Johnson writes, "I didn’t believe this story when people first started emailing about it; but sure enough, its true. Dunkin Donuts, the venerable old fried dough seller, is the latest American firm to casually promote the symbol of Palestinian terrorism and the intifada, the kaffiyeh, via Rachael Ray."
The keffiyeh has indeed been associated with the intifada, and with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. But its history as an item of clothing in the Arab world -- and a fashion accessory here in the West -- predates that. For a 2007 column in Canada's National Post, a conservative paper, Karen Burshtein turned to Ted R. Swedenburg, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas who lectures on pop culture in the Middle East, for his expertise. "Historically, the keffiyeh was an unremarkable, very conventional clothing customarily worn over the head by Palestinian and other Arabs to protect their head and sometimes their faces from the elements -- wind, sun and cold," Swedenburg said. "Then Arafat wore the black-and-white, which was very mainstream, and it became associated with the current Palestinian situation. But to say it is a symbol of terrorism is to say that all Palestinians are terrorists."
Surely Johnson would never imply that.