Palestinian heritage serves as a profound pillar of the Palestinian identity, embodying not just a symbol, but the very essence of their collective memory. It stands as a vital testament to their historical narrative and encapsulates the essence of life before the occupation, reinforcing its significance to every Palestinian.
Over time, Israel has been strategically adopting key facets of Palestinian heritage, redefining them to align with its own objectives. This assimilation often embodies a discerning viewpoint that seemingly aims to advance its self-interests.
What Is Cultural Appropriation?
Cultural appropriation involves the utilization of objects or aspects of a marginalized culture in a manner that perpetuates stereotypes, contributes to oppression, disregards their original significance, and fails to acknowledge their origin. It also encompasses the unauthorized adoption of cultural elements such as clothing, folkloric dancing, and more, without permission.
When people from diverse backgrounds come together and interact, it is natural for cultures to blend and merge, leading to artistic influences. On the other hand, a boundary is crossed when the dominant group appropriates elements from a non-dominant group in a manner that the latter perceives as exploitative.
Israeli Trolls Engage in Debate Over Palestinian Thobe
Naila Ayad, a pro-Palestine Twitter user, published a photo of a young girl dressed in a traditional embroidered Palestinian thobe. Alongside the photo, Ayad posed the question, "What do you like about Palestinian culture?"
Several Israeli Twitter accounts disputed the claim that the dress in question originated from Palestinian culture and instead argued that it was a Balochi dress.
The publishers of those tweets provided supporting evidence in the form of a screenshot from a Facebook page called "Balochi Dress Embroidery Fashion," which is involved in the sale of Balochi fashion clothes. This screenshot was presented to substantiate their assertion that the dress is indeed of Balochi origin.
In response to the question regarding what they appreciate about Palestinian culture, a Twitter user named @MichalSabr expressed a negative sentiment, stating, "What do I like about the Palestinian culture? I love how they steal other cultures and claim them as their own. H/T @lackboys3 for pointing out this beautiful girl is wearing a Balochi dress - Not Palestinian at all."
Another Twitter user, @izaakb, expressed a similar sentiment, accusing Palestinians of stealing others’ culture and pointing out that the mentioned photo is stolen from the Facebook page, saying, "This is classic. They just steal stuff from other cultures. This is a photo of a girl in a Balochi dress. Stolen right from the website of the (Balochi) people who make and sell them."
In addition to the statement, the user also shared a link to the Facebook page that is engaged in selling Balochi dresses, further supporting their claim about the origin of the dress in question.
In response to the question about the most admirable aspect of Palestinian culture, another user, who is identified as satirical, replied, "Mostly the theft." The response was accompanied by a photo of a woman wearing what appears to be a Balochi embroidery traditional dress, which bears a resemblance to the dress worn by the young Palestinian girl in the circulating photo.
Another Twitter user expressed a negative viewpoint, accusing Palestinians of cultural appropriation and asserting that Palestinian culture does not exist. They specifically mentioned the appropriation of Balochi culture, referring to it as “pathetic.”
Misbar’s Investigation of the Thobe Debate
Misbar's team conducted a thorough investigation into the originality of the photo featuring the young girl, which was shared by Balochi Dress Embroidery Fashion on October 15, 2020. Several Israeli accounts also referred to the photo as belonging to that Facebook account.
Misbar's team reached out to Fady Jabr, a Palestinian photographer whose watermark is clearly visible at the bottom right of the image, to verify the source and authenticity of the photo.
Photo Description: A screenshot of the Facebook page’s post.
Photographer Fady Jabr confirmed to Misbar that he shot the photo in question. He said that the photo was captured on July 15, 2018, in Tulkarm, Palestine, during a gallery exhibition featuring Palestinian thobes.
Furthermore, Jabr provided similar photographs featuring young girls wearing Palestinian thobes and posing for pictures in Tulkarm, Palestine. These additional images serve as further evidence supporting the authenticity and context of the original photo.
Is the Dress Balochi or Palestinian?
The Baloch people, also spelled Baluch or Beluch, are a group of tribes who speak the Balochi language. They are estimated to have a population of around five million individuals residing in the province of Balochistan in Pakistan, as well as neighboring regions in Iran and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the Baloch people are further divided into two main groups: the Sulaimani and the Makrani, with a compact block of Brahui tribes separating them from each other.
The traditional clothing of the Baloch people consists of a range of styles. It typically includes different variations of the kameez (a long tunic) and shalwar (loose-fitting trousers), along with the use of turbans, shoes, and headscarves.
Hand-Embroidered Palestinian Thobes
The Palestinian thobe, adorned with hand-stitched embroidery, is a garment that requires months of meticulous craftsmanship. It holds cultural significance as it represents a time when Palestinian women, particularly peasant women, would sew and embroid their own clothing after a day of farming.
Wearing traditional embroidered thobes is an important way for Palestinian women to express their connection to their ancestral towns and villages during social gatherings and special occasions.
There have been instances where Israeli figures have been observed wearing the Palestinian thobe at international events, such as the Cannes Film Festival, in an attempt to appropriate elements of Palestinian identity and contribute a national character to Israel's image. This act has been seen as an appropriation and an attempt to blur the distinct Palestinian cultural heritage.
Traditional Palestinian dresses, known as thobes, are typically made from a single piece of fabric. These dresses are often hand-embroidered with intricate designs and patterns. The embroidery work is a highly skilled craft, which adds beauty and uniqueness to each piece. The one-piece construction of the thobe reflects the traditional style and cultural significance of Palestinian dress.