Joudeh Hirbawi is not sure why young Palestinians do not want to wear the iconic black-and-white keffiyeh scarves his factory makes. But he has found another way to stay afloat.There was a remarkably similar article about the plight of the poor Hirbawis by AP a few years ago that noted that even the Fatah movement bought their keffiyehs from China.
Instead of selling to a dwindling local market of old men and young activists, he is working with a group of Palestinians overseas to market the scarves abroad, even harnessing social media to connect with customers.
For decades, the keffiyeh has been an international symbol of the Palestinian people and their cause.
It was most famously worn by the late President Yasser Arafat, whose carefully-styled headdress served as both a fashion statement and a political one.
Chinese-made keffiyehs began flooding into the West Bank and Gaza after the Oslo peace agreement was signed with Israel in 1993, lifting trade barriers.
The scarves are thin and lower quality, the Hirbawis say, but they also cost a lot less than their home-grown counterparts. At wholesale, the Hirbawis sell their keffiyehs for around 11 shekels ($3) a piece, while the Chinese ones sell for seven ($1.90).
...The factory has found a lifeline from outside, in the form of a group of activists of Palestinian origin who reached out to the family, fearing the family-run business was on the brink of closure.
"This is something that we're doing for the keffiyeh itself," said Noora Kassem, one of the Young Professionals for Palestine group.
"The Palestinian keffiyeh is a really strong political symbol and that's one of the reasons that we decided to focus on it," she told AFP by telephone from Amman where she is based.
"It would be a real tragedy if the keffiyeh itself is no longer made in Palestine."
The group reached out to online retailers, setting up a website and eventually a Facebook group called "The Last Keffiyeh" where customers from Europe, the United States, Latin America and elsewhere can place their orders.
The Hirbawis were "hesitant at first," she admits.
"What they want to do is focus on making their scarves, that's their business and that's fine," she said. "We are doing what we can from out here, which is the marketing side."
So far, the collaboration has been a success, with Hirbawi saying the factory has seen its overseas business grow steadily, now accounting for hundreds of keffiyehs each month.
The foreigners who are so anxious to save the Hirbawis charge a markup of at least 600%, selling the $3 keffiyehs for between $18 and $20. So they make far more off of this little capitalist venture than the people they are pretending to help.
Two companies who make Zionist versions of the Keffiyeh, with Stars of David, can be found here and here. The latter now even makes an American flag keffiyeh, something that the US-based fake supporters of "Palestine" would never wear.