This is very confusing!
McDonald’s family restaurants have declined to open a branch in the West Bank settlement known as ‘Ariel’. This means that Maccaa’s is effectively joining the BDS campaign as a protest to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The confusing thing is that McDonald’s used to be on the BDS hit-list!
Apart from alleged incidents of racist behavior towards Arab workers, the issue seems to have been the corporate partnership between McDonald’s head office and the Jewish United Fund (JUF).
According to Viva Palestina (Malaysia), “the JUF works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and,when necessary, responds to counter negative media coverage of Israel” and apparently honoured McDonald’s Corporation during the JUF centennial celebration in 2000 as a first tier corporate partner to the cause of Zionism!
Swimming upstream in this corporate environment though is Omri Padan – owner of the McDonald’s franchise in Israel and one of the founders of ‘Peace Now’ – a group who openly oppose the Palestinian Occupation!
We now have the bizarre situation where Israelis are boycotting the boycotters, so that there is turmoil at both the grass roots and the corporate end of the burger! I’m not sure what to think, but I’ll give myself permission to ponder it further over a Big Mac and fries!
West Bank Jews: Boycott McDonald’s
After fast food chain opts not to open restaurant in Ariel, settler leader urges Jews to support ‘chains with Zionist values.’ Peace Now lauds franchise owner’s decision
Article by Linda Gradstein
When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, everything, even a hamburger, is political. Israelis who live in areas the county acquired in 1967 are up in arms over McDonald’s decision not to open a branch in the mall that will be built in Ariel over the next year.
In Israel, the McDonald’s franchise is private and is owned by Omri Padan, one of the founders of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes Israeli building in post-1967 areas. There are 170 McDonald’s restaurants in Israel, about 40 of which are kosher. The company’s website claims it is the largest employer of youth in Israel, giving jobs to 3000 teenagers, along with 1000 adults.
Padan declined to give an interview to The Media Line but his office sent a one-line reply.
“This has always been the policy of Dr. Omri Padan,” referring to the decision not to open restaurants in Ariel, the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, or even east Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed.
Some in Israel welcomed Padan’s decision.
“In every democratic country everyone has the right to decide where to live and where to open his business,” Yariv Oppenheimer, the director general of Peace Now told The Media Line. “Padan did not want to take part in ‘settlement’ activity. He thinks the ‘settlements’ are damaging to Israel and we agree.”
Some right-wing leaders disagreed.
Settler leader Yigal Dilmony said that while he doesn’t support boycotts, consumers should vote with their wallets.
“Every citizen who cares about the State of Israel should think before he buys a burger – who is he financing?” Dilmony told The Media Line. “Burger Ranch (a rival local Israeli chain) said they will open in the new mall. Israeli citizens should support those chains with Zionist values.”
Others went even further.
“I urge the public to boycott anyone who boycotts it,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel said. “Only then will they get the message and the boycotts will stop.”
Oppenheimer of Peace Now reacted sharply, saying Padan’s decision is not a boycott.
“Nobody is saying that ‘settlers’ are not allowed to buy McDonald’s,” he said, referring to Israelis who live in post-1967 areas. “You can’t fault him for not building in a place they don’t want to remain part of Israel.”
The dispute erupted as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region for yet another attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinians say that all of the areas that Israel acquired in 1967 must become part of the Palestinian state and all 330,000 Jewish residents there must leave. Israel says it wants to hold onto what it calls “settlement blocs,” including Ariel.
“I think the decision not to open a McDonald’s here is a mistake and hurts a large population,” Ariel mayor Eliezer Shaviro told The Media Line. “Any kind of boycott is a mistake and causes more division.”
Shaviro says residents are trying hard to achieve coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors.
“In our industrial zone we have factories where Israelis and Palestinians work together and Palestinians make five times what they would in Nablus or Ramallah,” he said, referring to two nearby Palestinian towns. “If there is a boycott on Ariel, these factories might have to fire workers, and the Palestinians will join the cycle of violence instead of the ‘cycle of income.'”
It is not the first time that Ariel, which boasts a university of 13,000 students, both Arabs and Jews has been in the news. In 2011, 165 academics said they would not participate in academic functions at Ariel University because it sits on post-1967 land.
A year earlier, dozens of actors said they would not participate in cultural events there.
Israelis are especially sensitive to boycotts as the country has recently been the target. Recently, physicist Steven Hawking pulled out of a conference to protest Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has stepped up activity and dozens of artists, including musician Elvis Costello and actors Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan, have cancelled appearances.
Others have rejected the boycott calls. Barbra Streisand played to tens of thousands of enraptured fans earlier this month, and Alicia Keys appears next month.
This is encouraging! I can’t remember the last time I was impressed by the actions of Bob Carr! Has Australia finally found her moral compass? That’s too much to hope for. I guess we are only following the lead of Europe and the USA. Even so, it is encouraging.
Israel settler plans spark condemnation
The Sydney Morning Herald — RELATIONS between Israel and Australia – already tense after Labor backed away from opposition to a Palestinian seat in the United Nations – have worsened after Israel’s ambassador was summoned for a dressing down.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr took the serious step of calling in Israel’s ambassador Yuval Rotem on Tuesday afternoon to convey ”grave concern” and extreme disappointment with plans to expand settler housing in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Earlier, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had indicated the government was very concerned over the developments. Senator Carr instructed new Foreign Affairs chief, Peter Varghese, to summon Mr Rotem over reports that Israel will build 3000 new housing units in the highly sensitive area known as E1, a 12-square-kilometre patch of land east of Jerusalem. Tax revenue will also be withheld from the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories.
Despite widespread and growing condemnation of the announcement, the Israeli government remained unrepentant. Several European nations – including Britain, France and Spain – have summoned Israeli ambassadors in protest at the expanded settlement plans, with the US also critical of the move. The decision to call in Mr Rotem – a diplomatic signal of deep displeasure – is the second time Australia has taken such a move with Israel in recent years. The last, in 2010, followed revelations that Israel’s spy outfit Mossad used forged Australian passports to facilitate the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai.
More updates from Bob Birch, currently stationed on a farm in the West Bank.
It is a tragic story, made all the more tragic by the fact that few in this country care about what is going on. Thank God for Australians like Bob who are making a difference.
This is Khalid, the owner of the khan and orchard where I have been staying lately. He is a very dynamic character, who speaks rapid-fire Arabic or his own special brand of English (“You, he go, stay, come my house, eat sleep, good, you come”) and so on. He is very hospitable and welcoming…….and also very tough. The settlers from Maál Shivona settlerment nearby want him out. They want his land, his orchards, his olive trees and his historic house, but most of all they want the spring which is on his land.
They have offered him millions of dollars and a US passport to sell up. When he refused they stole his horse, injured his dog, stole his tools, wrecked his car, cut his electricity supply and broke into his house repeatedly, destroying all his furniture and leaving the place a shambles, with graffiti written over the walls. Finally, they attacked at night when the family was sleeping, beating all the family members and putting his wife in hospital. During the attack the eldest son, Jamal, used a hoe to defend his mother, wounding a settler.
When the Israeli police and army arrived they arrested Khalid and Jamal. (The script could have been written by Franz Kafka.) They were jailed and ordered to pay the equivalent of $10,000 in order to secure their release, leaving them virtually penniless. A jail sentence still hangs over their heads. Of course, nothing happened to the settlers; they appear to have total immunity.
Now a European Union NGO has put up the money to erect steel doors and window shutters so that the house can withstand further settler attacks – hopefully. ISM members maintain a vigil at the farm night and day, hoping by their presence to make it safer for Khalid and his family (who, for safety, now sleep in the village).
At night one is aware of the menacing presence of the Maál Livona settlement on the nearby hill. On the opposite hillside the lights from the huge settlement of Eli are strung out for 25 kilometres, testament to the unceasing land grab which is taking place. What is happening to Khalid is not an isolated incident; all over the Occupied West Bank similar stories can be told, stories of greed and brutality being met by courage and steadfastness.
As Khalid says, “America, Europe, Australia, the whole world knows our story, and they turn their backs on us. No-one cares. All I want is my land, my house and my trees. I will never leave.”