Israeli’s are calling for a boycott of all McDonald’s restaurants after a reserved space in a West Bank mall was removed from consideration at the location.
A spokesman for McDonalds said they are merely following their policy of “staying out of occupied territories.” They said they are joining other franchise businesses who have similar policies. The chain coordinated its decision with offices in the U.S. and told mall developers that the pronouncement “had always been the restaurant chain’s policy.”
“The mediators told us that branches operating abroad and other companies holding rights in Israel for international brand names are worried about the potential negative response toward their businesses [from consumers] abroad if they open shops in the mall,” Tzahi Nahmias told Calcalist newspaper.
In response Israeli settlers have called to boycott McDonald’s altogether. The right-wing ‘My Israel’ Facebook page posted a “McDonald’s: I’m not loving it” sign in protest.
“McDonald’s has turned from a business into an organization with an anti-Israeli political agenda,” deputy director of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, Yigal Delmonti, told Jpost.
Ariel Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro said McDonald’s refusal is “unfortunate” and it “discriminates against the city’s residents,” adding that “issues of culture and commerce shouldn’t be subject to political considerations.”
Taking McDonald’s space in the mall will be “Burger Ranch.” In 2010 they took over all the “Burger King’s” which had closed in Israel.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted former Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas as saying on his Facebook page that he would “not only eat the first hamburger grilled by Burger Ranch, but he would also send McDonald’s Israel owner Omri Padan ‘a current map with Israel’s up-to-date borders’”.
Padan, the owner and CEO of McDonald’s Israel, is a former soldier in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit and one of the founders of the group Peace Now. He has always opposed settlements on the West Bank. He said he viewed them as an obstacle to peace in the region. When he heard about the new mall, and was offered space, he refused.
Padan said the uproar is merely a media ploy by the mall’s investors to “push the mall forward.”
Although Padan is no longer a member of Peace Now, they issued a statement supportive of his choice to not open a McDonald’s in the location. They said that business owners have the right to make decisions, and not succumb to public pressure.
“We totally understand and support people who think settlements are bad for Israel’s interests,” Executive Director of Peace Now Yariv Oppenheimer told AP. “They don’t want to take an active role by opening a business there and helping to expand and to contribute to the settlement idea.”
Haaretz also points that “not only is Ariel, with its 19,000 Jewish settlers, decidedly NOT a part of Israel, but it is even an outlier compared to all the other ‘settlement blocs’ that Israel swears allegiance to in any peace settlement.”
McDonald’s has 170 branches throughout Israel. They are waiting to see if the boycott takes place, and affects their business. But the decision to stay removed from the new mall will stand.
The Guardian Express