Australia's Victoria parliament bans MPs from wearing Palestinian keffiyehs

Australia's Victoria parliament bans MPs from wearing Palestinian keffiyehs
Victoria's parliament has become one of the few in the world to prevent its MPs from showing solidarity with the Palestinian cause by banning keffiyehs.
3 min read
16 May, 2024

An Australian state parliament is now one of the few assemblies in the world to ban politicians from wearing the keffiyeh and other symbols of Palestinian identity.

President of Victoria's upper house, Shaun Leane, told politicians on Wednesday they were no longer permitted to don the scarf in the chamber and ordered one Green Party MP to remove a pair of watermelon earnings due to the fruit's association with the Palestinian cause.

He said MPs would still be allowed to wear pins associated with ANZAC and other causes, but symbols in solidarity with Gaza or Palestinians were now banned from the assembly hall in Mebourne due to a "lack of consensus" in the parliament.

"Could I please ask the members of the Greens to remove the scarves that they are wearing today and if they could put them in spots that are not visible to the chamber," Leane told MPs.

"If it is a cause we can all get behind or we reasonably think everybody can get behind, we should be relaxed about it.

"If it is symbolism - and I am not making a commentary on the symbolism - that you could reasonably expect the whole chamber is not behind, then I think it is a fair ruling to say that that should not be worn."

The keffiyeh has been worn by Palestinians and allies for decades, but the war on Gaza - which has seen over 35,000 Palestinians killed - sparked a resurgence in its use from Barcelona to Brisbane.

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Activists on college campuses, Palestinians and non-Arabs, have wrapped the black-and-white scarf around their heads or draped it around their necks to show support for Gaza which faces one of the most bloody military assaults in recent history.

Politicians from parties sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, including the Australian Greens, have also adopted the garment.

Lidia Thorpe, a Green senator in the Australian parliament, posted a picture on X wearing the keffiyeh following the ruling to show her continued support for Palestinians and pro-Gaza student encampments.

"Got my keffiyeh on for parliament today! Power to all the students camped out, and everyone that’s been coming to rallies & standing up for justice," she tweeted.

"Shame on Vic Labor for banning keffiyehs in parliament there. A real gammin lot they are."

In February, Muslims boycotted a state-sponsored iftar in Victoria due to the Labor-led government's alleged support for Israel.

Police have also reportedly been given the green light to evict pro-Gaza student protesters at the University of Melbourne, a hub for pro-Palestine activism in Australia.

Earlier this month, MP Gabrielle de Vietri posted a video after she and two other MPs were kicked out of the Victoria parliament for wearing keffiyehs.

Ellen Sandell, leader of the Victorian Greens, slammed the decision by the Labor-led parliament to ban the scarf under the pretext of keeping international relations out of the chamber, particularly as the state had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli military.

"It is Labor that is the one who is choosing a side when it comes to this conflict, and unfortunately it is not the side of the tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians who are being killed, Sandell, wearing a keffiyeh and watermelon earrings, said in a video outside parliament.