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15 Oct, 2023 18:59

McDonald’s subsidiaries take sides in Israel-Gaza war

The fast-food chain’s Israeli franchise’s announcement of free meals for IDF soldiers drew boycott calls and protests
McDonald’s subsidiaries take sides in Israel-Gaza war

Fast food giant McDonald’s Israeli franchise’s announcement of free meals for Israeli security forces triggered counter-donations from many of the chain’s Arab subsidiaries to the Palestinian cause on Saturday, posts on X (formerly Twitter) revealed.

Amid a growing backlash against McDonald’s over its apparent support for Israel’s war on Gaza, local McDonald’s franchises in Oman, Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates responded with donations to the Palestinian cause, along with reminders that each individual country’s McDonald’s business is independent of other national operators. 

Revealing it had donated $100,000 “towards the relief efforts for the people of Gaza” in a post to X on Saturday, McDonald’s Oman reminded customers that it was wholly independent of its Israeli counterpart and that each made their decisions –political and otherwise– without consulting the global McDonald’s Corporation, which supposedly abstains from politics. 

Saudi Arabia’s McDonald’s subsidiary revealed it had donated two million riyals ($533,000) to Gaza, in a post to X that included a statement clarifying it was Saudi-owned and -operated, and not responsible for “what other franchise owners do outside our national borders.”  

In an Instagram post on Saturday, McDonald's UAE pledged one million AED ($272,000) to the Emirati Red Crescent’s “Tarahum for Gaza” relief campaign, appending a similar statement of local ownership. 

McDonald's’ operation in Türkiye reportedly donated $1 million to “victims of war” in Gaza, while the franchisee in Kuwait said it contributed $250,000 to the local Red Crescent Society. McDonald’s Israel’s free-meals-to-IDF scheme was “not a global decision, nor was it approved by any of the other local operators, especially those in our region,” the Kuwaiti statement read. 

On Thursday, McDonald’s Israel boasted on Instagram that it had already provided “tens of thousands of meals” to IDF soldiers, police, and relief workers, and was continuing to deliver thousands daily across the country, on top of a 50% discount for police and military, and five newly-opened restaurants specifically dedicated to serving Israeli security forces. 

The announcement triggered a significant backlash, as many on social media argued it was cruel to brag about feeding Israelis for free while the Palestinians in Gaza were running dangerously low on food and water under Israel’s punitive blockade. Others rubbished the claims that McDonald’s parent corporation was apolitical, noting it received a percentage of all local subsidiaries’ earnings – including Israel’s. McDonald’s Israel’s social media accounts have since been made private.

Pro-Palestinian groups picketed a Lebanese McDonald’s in Saida on Friday in what one local outlet described as an “attack,” before acknowledging no one was hurt or property damaged during the protest. The restaurant’s Lebanese branch subsequently issued a statement affirming its independence.

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