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Why Are People Boycotting McDonald's?

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
Food & Beverages
6th January 2024
Why Are People Boycotting McDonald's?
McDonald's in Israel gave free meals to Israeli military personnel (Getty)

In recent developments, McDonald's, a globally recognized fast-food chain, has faced significant business challenges amidst the ongoing Israeli was on Gaza. This situation has been primarily fueled by widespread misinformation, affecting the brand's reputation and customer base in various regions, particularly in the Middle East.

Understanding the Controversy Surrounding McDonald's in the Middle East

The core issue stems from allegations against McDonald's for its support of Israel. This perception has led to a boycott movement against the company in several Middle Eastern countries and beyond. The CEO of McDonald's, Chris Kempczinski, has addressed this issue, highlighting the damaging effects of misinformation on the company's operations.

McDonald's Global Franchise Model and Its Impact

McDonald's operates over 40,000 stores globally, with a significant number in the Middle East. These stores are predominantly run by local owner-operators, emphasizing the company's franchise-based business model. This structure has become a focal point in the conflict, as individual franchise actions are often misconstrued as reflective of the corporation's stance.

The Role of Social Media and Grassroots Movements 

Social media has played a pivotal role in shaping public opinion during this crisis. Calls for boycotts and protests against McDonald's have gained traction online, further complicating the situation. Grassroots movements have also emerged, demanding more accountability and transparency from multinational corporations in politically sensitive issues.

Efforts to Distance from the Conflict

In response to the backlash, McDonald's outlets in Muslim-majority countries like Kuwait, Malaysia, and Pakistan have issued statements distancing themselves from the conflict. This move highlights the challenges multinational companies face in maintaining a neutral stance in geopolitical matters.

McDonald’s Israel’s Support for Israeli Forces Amid the War On Gaza

McDonald's franchise in Israel has been under scrutiny for providing free meals to Israeli military personnel during the ongoing war on Gaza. This act has been perceived as direct support for the Israeli forces and their actions in the region. The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), a prominent coalition leading the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has strongly criticized this and endorsed worldwide boycott campaigns against McDonald's. The gesture by McDonald’s Israel is viewed as a provocative and racially charged form of complicity, especially as it was promoted on social media platforms.

Legal Action by McDonald’s Malaysia Against BDS Activists

In a related development, McDonald’s franchise in Malaysia, owned by Lionhorn Pte Ltd, has initiated a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) against BDS Malaysia. This lawsuit, seeking damages of over $1 million, alleges defamation by the group, which advocates for justice and equality for Palestinians. The action by McDonald’s Malaysia is seen as an attempt to intimidate and silence advocates of the Palestinian cause, a move that has raised significant concerns about corporate responsibility and freedom of expression.

International Response and Legal Implications

The Malaysian government and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have shown support for South Africa's application to the International Court of Justice against Israel for alleged violations of the Genocide Convention in Gaza. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been described as "apocalyptic" by U.N. experts and international law scholars. Under the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies like McDonald's can be held liable if their subsidiaries are implicated in serious human rights abuses.

Escalating the Boycott of McDonald’s

In light of these events, the BNC calls for an escalation of the global boycott of McDonald’s. The demands are twofold: firstly, for McDonald's Corporation to terminate its agreement with the Israeli franchisee due to its support for alleged war crimes and secondly, for McDonald's to end its relationship with the Malaysian franchisee unless it drops the lawsuit against BDS Malaysia and issues an apology. This boycott aims to pressure McDonald’s into taking responsibility for the actions of its franchisees and upholding ethical standards in its global operations.

The situation reflects the growing importance of corporate ethics in international relations and the power of grassroots movements in influencing corporate policies. McDonald's, as a global brand, faces the challenge of navigating these complex issues while maintaining its corporate reputation and adhering to international human rights standards.

A supporting image within the article body
Companies supporting the war on Gaza according to BDS 

Corporate Responsibility 

As McDonald's navigates through this challenging period, the situation underscores the need for multinational corporations to be increasingly aware of their role in global politics and societal issues. Balancing business interests with ethical considerations is becoming more crucial than ever in today's interconnected world.

The case of McDonald's in the war on Gaza serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between business operations, global politics, and public perception. As companies like McDonald's strive to adapt and respond to these challenges, the lessons learned will be invaluable for other global entities facing similar dilemmas.

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