The announcement made by McDonald’s Israeli franchise about providing free meals to Israeli security forces has sparked controversy and led to a boycott of the fast-food chain. In response, several Arab subsidiaries of McDonald’s have made donations to support the Palestinian cause, as revealed through social media posts.
Franchises of McDonald’s in countries such as Oman, Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates responded to the backlash by donating to the relief efforts for the people of Gaza. They also emphasized that each country’s McDonald’s business operates independently from others, including the Israeli counterpart. McDonald’s Oman, for example, donated $100,000 towards the relief efforts for Gaza and clarified that its decisions, both political and otherwise, are independent of the global McDonald’s Corporation, which claims to remain apolitical.
Saudi Arabia’s McDonald’s subsidiary also made a donation of two million riyals ($533,000) to support Gaza, highlighting its Saudi ownership and stating that it is not responsible for the actions of other franchise owners beyond its national borders. McDonald’s UAE pledged one million AED ($272,000) to the Emirati Red Crescent’s relief campaign for Gaza. In Türkiye, McDonald’s reportedly donated $1 million to support the victims of war in Gaza, while the franchisee in Kuwait contributed $250,000 to the local Red Crescent Society. The Kuwaiti franchise made it clear that McDonald’s Israel’s decision to provide free meals to IDF soldiers was not a global decision and was not approved by other local operators, particularly those in the region.
McDonald’s Israel faced backlash for its announcement on social media platforms. Many argued that it was insensitive to offer free meals to Israelis while Palestinians in Gaza were facing severe shortages of food and water due to Israel’s blockade. Critics also questioned the claim that the global McDonald’s Corporation remains apolitical, noting that it receives a percentage of earnings from all local subsidiaries, including those in Israel. As a result of the backlash, McDonald’s Israel’s social media accounts have been made private.
Furthermore, pro-Palestinian groups conducted protests outside a McDonald’s branch in Saida, Lebanon, on Friday. Although the protest was described as an “attack,” no injuries or property damage were reported. The Lebanese branch of McDonald’s released a statement asserting its independence.
The controversy surrounding McDonald’s free-meals-to-IDF initiative highlights the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine and the deep divisions and sensitivities it evokes worldwide. As different stakeholders express their support for opposing sides, multinational corporations like McDonald’s find themselves caught in the middle, facing social and political pressures from various factions. McDonald’s response, through the individual statements of its subsidiaries, seeks to distance these local franchises from the decisions made by McDonald’s Israel and assert their autonomy in making independent contributions to the Palestinian cause. The situation serves as a reminder of the complexities businesses face when operating in regions embroiled in deep-rooted conflicts and the need for careful navigation of sensitive political issues.