Burgers and Boycotts

But on Thursday, Burger King said it had canceled the rights of the independent franchisee to operate it, following pressure from American Muslims.

August 27, 1999

Of Burgers and Boycotts
Burger King Becomes Entangled in Arab-Israeli Debate

Aug. 27 — A quiet, unassuming Burger King restaurant may seem like an unlikely location for the latest chapter in the long-running dispute between Arabs and Israelis on the West Bank.

But on Thursday, Burger King said it had cancelled the rights of the independent franchisee to operate it, following pressure from American Muslims.

The restaurant opened four months ago in a new shopping mall in Maaleh Adumim, a Jewish settlement of 25,000 residents three miles east of Jerusalem that is located on land Israel captured in the 1967 war.

Palestinians consider Jewish settlements the main obstacle to establishing their state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And American Arab and Muslim groups had threatened to boycott the fast food chain.

But it seems Burger King can do no right. Today, the settlement’s mayor expressed anger at Burger King’s decision. Denouncing the move as “a shame and an abomination,” Benny Kashriel blamed Palestinians for initiating the boycott threat and called on Jews around the world to boycott Burger

“It’s a shame a great company like Burger King giving up to the boycott of some Arab countries,” said Kashriel. “They have to learn from the Coca-Cola company that about 30 years ago passed the same way. It didn’t give up and is now in the Arab countries. In the Palestinian towns here and the Israeli towns here [people are] drinking Coca-Cola.”

Kashriel, who also serves as chairman of the Yesha Council, the body representing Israeli settlers in the West Bank, called on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to suspend peace talks with the Palestinians.

Hamburgers and politics should not be linked, Kashriel said, condemning the decision to shut down the restaurant.

“It’s really a joke starting to connect food and hamburgers to international politics,” said Kashriel. “It’s a stupid thing to do. What does a 10-year-old child, wanting to enjoy a hamburger, the taste of the hamburger, have to do with the peace negotiations?” To make matters more confusing, the shopping mall’s director denies the restaurant is to close.

“I think that this shopping mall and this branch of Burger King,” said Noah Maayan, “can be a small and, maybe later, a big [aid] to the good relationship between us and our neighbor that lives one mile from here.”

In a statement on Thursday, Burger King said the decision to close the outlet was made “purely on a commercial basis” — and that it had “no interest in taking sides in the Arab-Israeli peace process.”

The date of the closure is still to be decided.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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