McDonald’s Israel’s announcement of free meals for Israeli army sparks backlash from franchises in Arab international locations.
Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator Thomas Friedman within the late Nineties famously claimed that two international locations with McDonald’s shops had by no means gone to conflict.
However as combating rages between Israel and Hamas, the enduring American quick meals chain is at conflict with itself.
McDonald’s franchises within the Center East have weighed in on opposing sides of the battle, with branches in Muslim international locations disavowing a choice by McDonald’s Israel to supply free meals to the Israeli army.
Franchises in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain and Turkey have issued statements distancing themselves from their Israeli counterpart and collectively pledging greater than $3m to help Palestinians in Gaza, which is being bombarded by Israel in response to Hamas’s October 7 assault on the nation.
“Allow us to all mix our efforts and help the neighborhood in Gaza with the whole lot we are able to,” McDonald’s Oman, which has pledged $100,000 in direction of humanitarian aid efforts in Gaza, posted on X on Sunday.
“We ask God Almighty to guard our beloved nation and all Arab and Muslim international locations from all of the evil and hate.”
Assertion from McDonald’s Oman pic.twitter.com/SzKz7lhmgk
— McDonald’s Oman (@Mcdonaldsoman) October 14, 2023
Since saying its help for the Israeli military, McDonald’s Israel has modified its Instagram account to “personal” following a backlash from shoppers in Arab and Muslim international locations.
Whereas McDonald’s ranks among the many most iconic American manufacturers, most of its eating places worldwide are domestically owned and operated.
McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago, america didn’t reply to Al Jazeera’s request for remark.
The case of McDonald’s highlights the tough geopolitical dynamics that globe-spanning manufacturers should navigate in an period the place companies are sometimes anticipated to weigh in on hot-button social and political points.
The controversy has additionally revived dialogue of the so-called Golden Arches concept of battle prevention, popularised by Friedman in his 1999 ebook The Lexus and The Olive Tree.
The speculation – that international locations with sufficient wealth and stability to help a significant chain like McDonald’s don’t go to conflict with one another – has been broadly discredited following conflicts amongst international locations with the model, together with the 1998-99 Kosovo Struggle and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
McDonald’s doesn’t have any shops in Gaza or the occupied West Financial institution however Israel has clashed with Hezbollah fighters in neighbouring Lebanon, which does have the American chain.
“We’re in a post-‘Golden Arches Concept of Battle Prevention’ world now for certain,” Paul Musgrave, an affiliate professor of political science on the College of Massachusetts Amherst, advised Al Jazeera.
“Although Russia and Ukraine each had McDonald’s in 2022, they nonetheless went to conflict. Now, conflicts inside the McDonald’s empire mirror the true stresses and passions of the area.”
McDonald’s isn’t the primary world model to be drawn into controversy attributable to its stance on the Israel-Palestine battle.
United Kingdom-based multinational Unilever got here below hearth from buyers final yr for failing to reveal that its ice cream model subsidiary Ben and Jerry’s had determined to boycott Israeli-occupied territory within the West Financial institution and East Jerusalem in 2021.
Spanish retailer Zara was boycotted by some customers final yr after the chairman of its Israeli franchise, Canadian-Israeli businessman Joey Schwebel, hosted a marketing campaign occasion for far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at his residence.
Main manufacturers have additionally discovered themselves drawn into controversies concerning the human rights data of different international locations reminiscent of China.
In 2021, Japanese retailer MUJI confronted criticism after publicly endorsing cotton grown in China’s Xinjiang area, the place human rights activists say ethnic minority Muslims are exploited for pressured labour.
Musgrave mentioned that “the dream that capitalism and commerce would quiet nationalism and different types of fervour has been revealed to have some holes”.
“Having completely different franchises of McDonald’s find yourself on completely different [rhetorical] sides is one other instance of how politics permeates the whole lot.”