McDonald’s, one of the most iconic American brands, has found itself embroiled in the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to a report by The Washington Post. The fast-food giant’s Israeli operator, Alonyal Limited, announced that it would provide complimentary meals to Israeli hospitals and soldiers, sparking a maelstrom of controversy and backlash.
The Washington Post disclosed that franchise owners in other parts of the Middle East swiftly distanced themselves from this contentious move, asserting that they had no involvement in the decision to offer free meals to Israeli soldiers. Some even initiated donations to Gaza in a show of solidarity with Palestinians.
In the wake of this announcement, several McDonald’s outlets in Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt were vandalized following an airstrike that targeted Al-Mamadani Hospital in Gaza, resulting in hundreds of casualties. With over 40,000 stores worldwide, McDonald’s is indubitably one of the most recognizable brands globally, closely associated with the United States. However, the vast majority of these restaurants are locally owned under franchise agreements.
The report also highlighted that McDonald’s outlets have been recurrent targets over the years, particularly in the Middle East, as they are perceived as symbols of American influence. Unlike US embassies, which are fortified with concrete barriers and police presence, fast-food chains like McDonald’s have become vulnerable targets for politically motivated vandalism.
The transformation of McDonald’s into a target for sabotage began following the Arab boycott of American brands in the early 21st century, during the Second Palestinian Intifada and after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. During the Arab Spring protests in Cairo in 2011, the renowned fast-food chain near Tahrir Square was attacked and repurposed as makeshift first-aid centers for protesters.
The Washington Post indicated that the ire against the fast-food chain intensified as the death toll in Gaza rose after nearly two weeks of Israeli bombardment, which was a response to a Hamas attack on October 7. A week into the conflict, franchise companies operating McDonald’s outlets in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and across the Gulf issued statements distancing themselves from the actions of their Israeli counterparts, while some donated funds to Gaza.
Despite these initiatives, calls for boycotting the fast-food behemoth proliferated, as did attacks on some of its locations. In Egypt, boycott campaigns spread like wildfire on the internet, with many individuals taking to social media to vent their outrage, according to the newspaper.
McDonald’s Corporation has yet to respond to requests for comment on the political and charitable activities of its franchise owners, as per the report.