Like Ben & Jerry’s, McDonald’s boycotts ‘settlements’ – but with a difference

Israeli franchise owner Omri Padan’s boycott of settlements may violate Israeli law. Is the U.S. corporation complicit?

By World Israel News Staff

While Ben & Jerry’s faces opprobrium from Israel and its supporters over its boycott of “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” reports over the last several years show that the McDonald’s fast food company has similarly refused to operate in Judea and Samaria for years – only in the latter case, it appears to be the local franchise that made that decision.

Unlike the ice cream battle, which originated in Vermont, the Golden Arches boycott was reportedly made at the initiative of the Israeli franchise owner, in apparent violation of Israeli law. Less obvious is whether McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago is complicit.

The issue dates back at least to 2013 when Omri Padan, who owns and runs McDonald’s in Israel, reportedly rejected an offer to open a restaurant in a mall located in the city of Ariel in northern Samaria.

Padan is president of Alonyal Ltd., which operates 180 McDonald’s eateries in Israel — including some that are certified kosher.

Padan is also one of the co-founders of Peace Now, which opposes Jewish “settlements” in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

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Calls for a boycott of McDonald’s Israel in response to Padan’s snub of Ariel fizzled. In 2019, the franchise received a tender to operate in Ben Gurion Airport despite objections from Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan and protests by IDF veterans.

During the debate over the airport tender, a McDonald’s Israel statement quoted by Haaretz was unequivocal: “Alonyal never had a license to open branches in the West Bank.”

It has not been made clear from previous reports whether McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago agreed with the boycott.

However, Times of Israel reported on Wednesday that, “Corporate McDonald’s based in the U.S. gives each of its franchises abroad specific borders where they can open branches, and in Israel’s case, those borders never extended beyond the Green Line. But McDonald’s and McDonald’s Israel have been careful not to publicize those boundaries, and representatives from the fast-food chain in the US and Israel declined to speak on the record.”

Israeli law prohibits boycotts of its citizens based on their location, which is why the owner of the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s franchise, Avi Zinger, defied demands from Vermont to cease sales to the settlements. At that point, Ben & Jerry’s responded by saying they would not renew Zinger’s contract, which expires in 2023.

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If the McDonald’s corporate headquarters are proven to be complicit, it too could face legal scrutiny in more than 30 states which have anti-BDS laws. Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, could face the loss of public contracts from New York to California. Some states could potentially require public pension plans to divest their holdings in the London-based conglomerate.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan has already contacted the governors of those states asking them to implement their anti-BDS laws against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever.

World Israel News contacted McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago, asking if the McDonald’s Corporation has a policy not to operate in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and/or the Golan Heights? Furthermore, was Padan’s decision not to open a branch in Ariel made in coordination with corporate headquarters?

No reply was received before the publishing deadline.