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February 26, 2024

McDonald’s Middle East Business Hit by Backlash Over Israel Stance

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Jan 5, 2024

McDonald’s is facing growing backlash in Muslim-majority countries over past donations to charities supporting Israeli soldiers, resulting in meaningful sales declines across the Middle East. The company’s CEO blamed “misinformation” about McDonald’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict for the regional business impact.

Donations to Israeli Soldiers Spark Anger

The recent controversy stems from McDonald’s franchises in Israel donating meals to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) troops during fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2021. McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski defended the Israeli franchises’ actions in an internal message to employees last year, stating that he stood behind the decision “one hundred percent.”

Kempczinski’s vocal support for the Israeli franchisees donating to IDF soldiers sparked outrage on social media in Muslim-majority countries. Critics accused McDonald’s of supporting oppression against Palestinians. Pro-Palestinian groups called for boycotts of the fast food giant across the Middle East.

McDonald’s Malaysia Sues Boycott Group

The backlash has been particularly intense in Malaysia, where McDonald’s filed a lawsuit in late December against the pro-Palestinian group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia. McDonald’s Malaysia is seeking over $3 million in damages from the group over its calls to boycott McDonald’s for “funding Israel’s violence.”

BDS Malaysia denies the allegations of defamation, stating that its social media posts simply shine a spotlight on McDonald’s longstanding support for “Israeli apartheid.”

The lawsuit has stirred further public outcry in Malaysia, with citizens taking to social media to blast McDonald’s for trying to silence pro-Palestinian activism. Over 7,500 Malaysians also signed a petition urging the government to force McDonald’s to withdraw the “anti-human rights” lawsuit.

Sales Declines Across Middle East

The regional backlash has taken a toll on McDonald’s bottom line, with the company experiencing “meaningful impact” to its business in multiple Middle Eastern markets, according to CEO Kempczinski.

“Misinformation”, along with calls for boycotts, have depressed sales for McDonald’s in key markets across the region, Kempczinski said. He did not specify the exact scope of the financial damage.

Country Known Business Impact
Saudi Arabia Sales dropped
United Arab Emirates Sales dropped
Kuwait Some franchise restaurants closed

Other Middle Eastern countries likely affected by the growing anger over McDonald’s perceived stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict include Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco, according to market analyst estimates.

No End in Sight for Backlash

McDonald’s is not the first multinational corporation to face backlash in the Arab world over actions viewed as supportive of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. However, the consumer anger towards McDonald’s appears to be more significant and enduring.

With tensions still raw over last year’s fighting in Gaza, and new clashes already reported in the West Bank in early 2023, sentiment against companies donating to the Israeli military is unlikely to dissipate soon. Pro-Palestinian groups are leveraging social media to fuel continued boycott calls.

As long as McDonald’s is perceived to be taking Israel’s side in the conflict, the company should brace for extended sales pressure across the Muslim world. Any compromise seems unlikely, given CEO Kempczinski’s vocal defense of the Israeli franchisees whose donations originally triggered the backlash.

With bridges burned on both sides, McDonald’s faces a long road to reputation and business recovery in the Middle East.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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