Ron Machol
Ron Machol
COO of Zachor Legal Institute

McDonald’s and Ben & Jerry’s in Israel — not all Boycotts are the same

Ben & Jerry’s and Mcdonald’s — both well-known American food brands that have prominent commercial operations in Israel.

Yet, that is about all the CEOs of the Israeli operations of these brands have in common, at least as relates to selling in Judea and Shomron.

Omri Padan, the owner and CEO of McDonald’s Israel, is one of the founders of Peace Now.  Irina Shalmor, spokeswoman for McDonald’s Israel, said the owners of a planned mall in Ariel asked McDonald’s to open a branch there.  Shalmor said the chain refused because the owner of McDonald’s Israel has a policy of staying out of the occupied territories [Judea/Shomron]. The decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the U.S., she said: https://apnews.com/article/57e4a11ed81e4b5fb4c3cfd6a4dbfd99.  This article is from 2013, yet here we are eight years later, and McDonald’s Israel continues to operate without opposition in the country, even though there remains no McDonalds in Ariel, nor anywhere over the “Green Line”.

Contrast this with Avi Zinger, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel.  He commented on the global Ben & Jerry’s corporation’s recent decision to boycott Judea and Samaria, and that he has no intention of stopping the sales of the ice cream there.  Zinger said he had been under heavy pressure from Ben & Jerry’s global corporation. Avi said:

I have been under pressure for about a year and hearing demands to stop marketing in Judea and Samaria. Of course, I have been opposed to it all along. Ever since the operation in Gaza the pressure from the company has increased.  I did not agree to surrender to this and I am not willing to continue to surrender to it,” stressed the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel. “I have been with them for 25 years, I brought it to Israel. I was informed that since I am not willing to cooperate on this issue, they will not extend my agreement in year and a half.

What is interesting is that over the years, the McDonald’s boycott of Judea and Samaria is well-known in Israel yet almost completely ignored by politicians and the media, while the new Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Judea and Samaria is generating tremendous attention and anger.

Israeli politicians are competing to see who can chastise Ben & Jerry’s more severely.  Prime Minister Bennet, Foreign Minister Lapid, and President Herzog have all been prominently quoted criticizing Ben & Jerry’s, yet nary a word about the McDonald’s boycott.

The only concerted efforts that I could find against Mcdonald’s was in 2019, when this restaurant chain was bidding for the food concession at Ben Gurion airport.  Some that live in Judea and Samaria opposed McDonald’s having the opportunity to bid for the lucrative airport concession, since the company was engaged in a boycott.  Mainstream Israel ignored this issue altogether, and Mcdonald’s won the airport tender.  In this article at the time of the airport tender: https://www.timesofisrael.com/mcdonalds-israel-wins-airport-tender-despite-charges-of-boycotting-west-bank/, it was reported:

McDonald’s Israel is headed by Omri Padan, a founder of Peace Now, which regards settlements as one of the largest obstacles to the two-state solution. In 2013, Padan said he would not open a branch in a new mall in Ariel because it is located in the West Bank.

McDonald’s Israel said the international McDonald’s office has not approved branches in the West Bank.

Thus, according to McDonald’s Israel, corporate McDonalds does not approve of branches in Judea and Samaria.  They don’t say why, maybe they were never even asked, but does it matter?  If McDonald’s in Israel is operating at all major malls, presumably it would follow that malls in Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim in Judea and Samaria would be ideal and profitable locations.  McDonald’s, how do you explain this omission?

And from the reactions of Israeli politicians and even the general population, does this mean that some boycotts of Judea and Samaria are less severe than others?

Once and for all, let’s be consistent and take action against all that boycott Judea and Samaria.

About the Author
Ron Machol is a NPO and hi-tech professional. Born in the US, he made aliyah 20+ years ago. He is COO of Zachor Legal Institute, an organization using the law to oppose antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel.
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