Israeli companies feel the heat of global boycott over genocide in Gaza; popular food chains shut in several countries

Malaysians boycott McDonald's, companies linked to Israel. Photo credit.

Israeli companies feel the heat of global boycott over genocide in Gaza; popular food chains shut in several countries

By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI – The Israeli companies dealing in diverse sectors across the world are feeling the heat of pro-Palestine global boycott over the ongoing genocide in Gaza, as it has hurt the business interests of Zionist forces and posed an existential threat to some of the popular brands. With the figures of innocent Palestinians killed in the Israeli attacks having crossed 34,500, the pro-Palestinian activists are actively taking forward their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to punish Israel.

The impact of the boycott has been most pronounced in Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East and South-East Asia, where several fast-food chains and their franchisees are on the verge of permanent closure, despite the local operators’ plea that their businesses are not directly related to Israel. Malaysia and Indonesia have especially taken the lead in the boycott of Israeli products.

QSR Brands, the franchise holder for KFC in Malaysia and other parts of South-East Asia, has announced that it is temporarily closing over 100 KFC outlets across the country, as it looks to manage increasing business costs and focus on high-engagement zones. The move comes amid a Malaysia-wide boycott against the fried chicken establishment, as activists criticised its U.S.-based parent company Yum! Brands for investing in an Israeli startup.

Luqa AbuFarah, the North America Coordinator of the BDS National Committee, pointed out that the BDS was the most effective way for people of conscience to put their solidarity with Palestinian human rights into action. But the local franchisees of impacted fast-food chains have argued that boycotts will only hurt local communities and employees.

QSR Brands said in a statement that contributing positively to the Malaysian community, preserving the brand love for KFC and protecting employees of the brand were all priority to the organisation. The company pointed out that about 85% of its 18,000 employees in Malaysia are Muslim and affirmed that its Malaysian roots and sincerity and hard work had strengthened the Malaysian economy.

The KFC has reduced its operations in Malaysia, shuttering about 20% of its restaurants temporarily after months of a persistent pro-Palestine boycott of US-linked businesses. QSR Brands is suspending operations of 108 outlets nationwide in response to the challenging economic conditions. It has taken proactive measures to temporarily close outlets in order to manage growing business costs and focus on the busier KFC stores.

“Employees from the affected stores were offered the opportunity to relocate to operating stores as part of a tactical strategy to optimise resources in trade zones with higher customer engagement,” the company said. The outlets in Jalan Ipoh, Jalan Sultan and Taman Melawati localities of Kuala Lumpur were temporarily closed and boxes were stacked up inside the restaurants. Workers at neighbouring stores said they were closed a week ago because of lack of customers.

Though KFC is not on the BDS list of targeted companies, many Malaysians see any American fast-food operator to be related to Israel including KFC. Since the boycott began in October 2023, KFC has shifted its branding strategy, with signs on their menu boards and fliers emphasising that it is owned by Johor Corporation, which belongs to the Johor state government.

In the state of Kedah, 11 outlets have closed and slashed the salary of their staff by half. KFC and a few other U.S.-based brands such as Starbucks and McDonald’s have been facing boycotts because of their perceived link to Israel since the Zionist country started its brutal attacks on the Palestinian territories of Gaza and West Bank.

Berjaya Food, which owns 400 Starbucks stores in Malaysia, reported a net loss of 8.95 million U.S. dollars from October to December 2023, with owner Vincent Tan reportedly considering taking the company private. QSR also operates KFC restaurants in Singapore, Brunei and Cambodia, as well as more than 480 Pizza Hut stores in Malaysia and Singapore.

North-east Kelantan state is the worst-hit with nearly 80%, or up to 21 outlets, halting their operations, followed by 15 outlets in Johor. Selangor, the most industrialised state in Malaysia, has 11 branches temporarily closed, 10 of which are located in Malay-majority Shah Alam.

The sales of McDonald’s were dented after its Israel franchise in October announced that it had given thousands of free meals to the Israeli army. That move was followed by relief pledges to Gaza from McDonald’s Kuwait and McDonald’s Qatar, both of which are managed separately from the Israeli business. Most McDonald’s restaurants in the Middle East are operated under a franchise agreement in which the corporate parent does not invest capital.

McDonald’s has described the boycott’s greatest impact in the Middle East, while also pointing to effects in markets like Malaysia and Indonesia and in parts of France where the Muslim population is higher. The big fast-food chain experienced a dip in comparable sales in international developmental licensed markets, which comprises emerging markets. McDonald’s has stated that the continued impact of the war in the Middle East has more than offset positive comparable sales in Japan, Latin America and Europe.

According to AP news, Turkey on Thursday suspended all imports and exports to Israel citing the country’s ongoing military action in Gaza and vowed to continue to impose the measures until the Israeli government allows the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In a significant development, the closing declaration of the Fifth Conference of the League of Parliamentarians for Al-Quds and Palestine, which took place in Istanbul from April 26 to 28 with the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Numan Kurtulmus, has supported the global boycott movement against Israel.

“We support the global boycott movement of Israel and its supporters and call on the Parliaments to enact laws that contribute to the global boycott movement,” the 27-point declaration of the conference said. The declaration emphasised that the participants consider the Israeli occupation as the biggest obstacle to peace in the region and that the Zionist ideology is the biggest threat to world peace and its actions that violate all humanitarian values.

The declaration condemned the efforts of the U.S. and some western countries to support the occupying entity militarily and economically and called for the smooth delivery of sufficient food, drinking water and medical aid to the residents of Gaza. The issues mentioned in the declaration included the call to end the war against Palestine immediately to spare innocent people, stop the machine of crime and destruction.

“We strive diligently to activate the most prominent decision of the conference to establish the global alliance to revive the system of rights, justice, values and rational principles across Parliaments, governments and peoples in the face of the alliance of oppression, injustice, tyranny, occupation and racism that supports Israel in its criminal war on the Gaza Strip and to devote the right and support it everywhere in the world. We call on the Turkish President to take the lead position in this global alliance,” the declaration said, while commending the Palestinian resistance and its extraordinary heroism against the genocidal war, and emphasizing that the Palestinian people’s resistance against the occupation by all means is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international legislation.

The closing declaration thanked Turkey for its role in supporting the League and hosting its conferences in the country, which contributed to its prestigious global status as an international Parliamentary platform defending the Palestinian issue. Hasan Turan, chief administrative officer of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was elected as the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Al-Quds Platform Turkey, while AK Party’s Ankara MP Asuman Erdogan was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of the platform.


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