Arab boycott of American consumer goods spreads
The Guardian (UK)- Wednesday January 8, 2003
An informal Arab boycott of American consumer goods has been slowly gathering
pace around the Middle East over the past two years as a protest against US
support for Israel.
At Friday prayers clerics have denounced some of America's most famous
brands, leaflets are handed out on the streets and the internet has been
inundated with protest calls.
Some US companies have reported a drop in sales of between 25 and 40%. The
targets include McDonald's and Burger King, Tide and Ariel detergents,
Pampers nappies, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Marlboro cigarettes, Hasbro toys,
L'Oréal, Johnson & Johnson, Timberland, Starbucks and Heinz.
Factories in Iran making Zam Zam Cola are struggling to keep up with demand
for their sweeter version of Pepsi and Coca-Cola. In the United Arab
Emirates, sales of the local Star Cola have soared.
Two of the six McDonald's franchises in Jordan have closed for lack of
business and KFC and McDonald's branches in the Omani capital Muscat said
sales had fallen by up to 65%.
The boycott, an extension of the 1951 Arab boycott against Israel, has been
given added impetus by declarations from Muslim scholars like Sheikh Youssef
al-Qaradawi of Qatar and Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein
Fadlallah. He has called on Arabs to replace US products with European and
Asian goods in appreciation of the political support of those countries.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, preacher Sheikh Omar bin Saeed al-Badna has preached
that the boycott would be good for the kingdom's local economy.
In Beirut, students have protested outside the city's four Starbucks shops,
with leaflets spelling out the pro-Israeli sentiments of its chief executive,
Howard Shultz, and claiming he is "an active Zionist".
In Morocco, the newspapers L'Economiste and Assabah have launched a campaign
against the US dollar, urging Moroccans to avoid using the currency in their
business dealings and opt for the euro wherever possible.
The Egyptian Doctors' Syndicate, in what it accepts is a symbolic protest,
has sent doctors and pharmacies a list of US-made medical products with
alternative local or European products.
Some of the protests have turned violent. A Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet has
been torched by student protesters at Cairo University and another in
Tripoli, Tunisia, has been bombed.
So far the boycott has been largely endorsed by individuals and the few civic
and student groups that are allowed to exist in the region. But in Syria,
which has one of the more active coordinated campaigns, the government has
formally endorsed it.