Opinion |

Thanks McDonald’s for Reminding Israel There Is a Green Line, and Even a Red Line

By refusing to open branches in the settlements, McDonald’s took a step very few companies are willing to take, but that all companies should have taken long ago

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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McDonald'sCredit: Gene J. Puskar,AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

McDonald’s presents: a model hamburger. It doesn’t appear on the menu and the company obscures its ingredients, but it’s clearly the flagship item – a boycott of the settlements. There are no Big Macs in Ariel and there will be no McRoyales in Efrat.

The right is now demanding that this traitorous company be barred from opening a branch at Ben-Gurion Airport. A group called the Disabled Veterans’ Forum for Israel’s Security posted warning signs this week at the entrance to the company’s restaurants in Tel Aviv, modeled after the warning signs that tell Israelis not to enter the Palestinian Authority. It terms the McDonald’s boycott of the settlements “a disgraceful decision” and is urging a boycott of the company.

That’s what happens to a hamburger that seeks to raise its head and do more than just sell an extra-large portion, that chooses to heed its conscience and not just be a hamburger.

McDonald’s is a senior partner in the crimes of the meat industry and the holocaust of animals. It’s a symbol of globalization and capitalism. Its products are harmful to people’s health and the environment, and it doesn’t let its workers unionize.

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Nevertheless, we must now applaud its policy, which dates back to 2013, when its Israeli franchisee, Omri Padan, opposed opening a branch in Ariel. People of morality must therefore contemptuously cross through the warning signs that the right has posted at the chain’s branches and demonstratively buy a green salad with corn sticks as an act of support for the company’s courage and determination. It must not suffer because it took a step very few companies are willing to take, but that all companies should have taken long ago.

The company’s official explanation may seem evasive, but it goes to the heart of the matter: “Alonyal [the franchisee] never had a license to open branches in the West Bank.” Boom. There is a Green Line. There’s even a red line.

It’s true this separation is artificial, and it’s been dead for a long time already. It’s ridiculous to boycott the settlement of Itamar but not Tel Aviv, which funds it, guards it and legalizes its crimes.

Nevertheless, McDonald’s has issued a resounding statement: The West Bank and Gaza aren’t here. It has said yes to Israel, no to the occupation, which counts for more than 1,000 protest signs at a demonstration. The franchisee never had a license in a piece of land to which Israel also never had a license.

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Thomas Friedman once wrote that there will never be a war between two countries which both have McDonald’s branches – a thesis that was destroyed by the Second Lebanon War of 2006. But this company is now breaking boundaries, and above all setting boundaries.

Hamburger joints aren’t moral leaders. McDonald’s merely said what should have been self-evident to every commercial company: The franchisee for Israel isn’t necessarily the franchisee for the colonies of the occupation. Many Israeli and international companies ought to follow in its footsteps. Just as every law-abiding company has an obligation not to traffic in stolen property, so too it must not operate on stolen land.

Decent companies don’t operate in crime-ridden areas. They don’t invest, they don’t buy, they don’t rent and they don’t sell. It’s dangerous there, and illegal.

And there’s no other way to define the occupied territories and the settlements built there in violation of international law except as crime zones. Can a law-abiding company set up a legitimate business in Ofra, a settlement in which more than half the houses are built on privately owned land that was stolen by force from its legal owners? This bears no connection to ideology, or even morality, but only to operating within the law.

Sad experience shows that in the end, the Jewish and Israeli lobbies will extort a victory. They forced Airbnb to capitulate, and they may also defeat McDonald’s.

But until the McDonald’s Drive-Thru opens in Ma’aleh Mikhmash – and we hope it never will – we can suggest that the settlers eat at McDonald’s inside Israel, or set up an alternative fast-food chain: McDavid’s. In the 1980s, when McDonald’s hadn’t yet come to Israel, a chain by that name operated here. It got sued by the American company over the misleading similarity of its name. The food tasted horrible, and the chain closed, leaving ruin behind it, and only one branch.

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