The Israeli occupation of the West Bank suffered a huge setback this week, with the unlikely champion of fast-food chain McDonald’s highlighting the issue of the occupied territory. McDonald’s has refused to open a branch in the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ariel, sparking anger and cries for a boycott of the franchise.
McDonald’s said the company wanted to respect the 1967 international agreement that created the Green Line across Israel, giving West Bank territories to the Palestine Arabs. Since the accord was set, Israelis have tried to erase the Green Line from public consciousness by building on either side of it, relocating 20,000 Jewish settlers to the West Bank, and deleting it from Israeli textbooks and weather maps.
In a bold and surprising move, the fast food giant McDonald’s, which already has 180 outlets in Israel, has created a political fervor by strictly following international laws. It is also highlighting the legalities of the occupied territories.
“This has always been the policy of Dr. Omri Padan,” McDonald’s said. Padan, chief executive of McDonald’s Israel, was once a founding member of Peace Now, an anti-settlement organization.
Representatives from the Jewish settlements condemned the decision.
“McDonald’s has turned from a business into an organization with an anti-Israeli political agenda,” Yigal Delmonti of the Yesha Council, a settlement umbrella organization, told the Jerusalem Post. “We expect that Israeli citizens, especially those living in Judea and Samaria (the biblical term for the West Bank), will take this into account before entering the company’s franchises.”
“The decision by McDonald’s not to open a branch in the Ariel mall is an unfortunate decision that discriminates against the residents of the city,” Eliyahu Shaviro, the mayor of Ariel, told Ma’ariv.
Members of Knesset and the Jewish Home party, a right-wing group, said they would encourage members to boycott the burger chain.
The Israeli-occupied territories have been under the spotlight of human rights groups and other organizations. Last month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, stated, “Israel is committing serious human rights violations, and called on Tel Aviv to stop its settlement construction activities, and to release Palestinian political prisoners.”
In a statement to Mint Press, McDonald’s said, “Our partner in Israel has determined that this particular location is not part of his current growth plan.”
But this is not the first time McDonald’s has caused a stir in Israel. McDonald’s complied with the Arab League boycott of Israel until the 1990s. The boycott was meant to discourage multinational companies from trading with Israel as part of an ongoing campaign to stop Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The U.S. and British governments refused to recognize the Arab League boycott, fining companies that took a political stance. Despite this pressure, McDonald’s did not open any restaurants in Israel until 1993.
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