Report: Starbucks the Target of Arab Boycott for Its Links to Israel

Starbucks is among a list of American companies being targeted in a boycott campaign being launched in five Arab states, the British daily The Independent reported Friday.

According to the report, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Burger King outlets are also on the list of companies to be boycotted.

The newspaper reported from Beirut that activists handed out leaflets outside the city's four Starbucks shops, "detailing the pro-Israeli sentiments of its chief executive, Howard Shultz, and claiming he is 'an active Zionist'."

Shultz received the Israeli 50th Anniversary Tribute Award in 1998, from the Jerusalem Fund of Aish Ha-Torah, a group that is strongly critical of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and believes that the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be considered "disputed" and not "occupied" territories.

The newspaper said that Shultz gave a speech to Jewish Americans in Seattle earlier this year, where he condemned Palestinian "inaction" and announced that "the Palestinians aren't doing their job - they're not stopping terrorism."

According to the report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir praised Shultz for helping students in America American hear "Israeli presentations on the Middle East crisis."

Starbucks has branches in six other Arab countries - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - but the protesters, who include both Palestinians and Muslim groups at Egyptian universities, have a much wider list of companies they wish to punish for allegedly supporting Israel, not only in the Middle East but in the United States itself.

They include AOL Time Warner, Disney, Este Lauder, Nokia, Revlon, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges and IBM. Students at Dubai University and in Damascus are discussing their boycott plans, the report said.

More than two years ago, Burger King incurred Arab anger when it opened an outlet in a West Bank settlement. The company initially decided to close the outlet, but after pro-Israeli lobby pressure in America - apparently allowed it to reopen under a different franchise.

According to the report, Starbucks, which has 4,709 retail locations around the world, has been trying to tone down its pro-Israel image, telling protesters who have written to the company that its chief executive, Howard Shultz, who is himself Jewish, "does not believe the terrorism (sic) is representative of the Palestinian people" and that his views do not necessarily reflect those of the company.