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One In Three People Are Boycotting Brands Over Israel’s War On Gaza

Above photo: Starbucks is one Western brand that has been hit by pro-Palestinian sentiment in the Middle East and North Africa. AFP/file photo.

Oil-rich Gulf states and large Muslim-majority countries are leading the way.

Suggesting deep anger with Israel over its offensive.

More than one in three people say they are boycotting a brand viewed as supporting a side in Israel’s war on Gaza, with oil-rich Gulf states and large Muslim-majority countries leading the way.

The latest edition of an annual Trust Barometer report from public relations firm Edelman underscored how sharp divides over the war are causing consumers across the globe to take a stance with their wallets.

The survey polled 15,000 consumers across 15 countries, including France, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US.

The poll didn’t say who respondents sided with in the war, but out of the top five countries listed as engaged on boycotting brands over Gaza, three are Muslim-majority nations: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Indonesia. India also has a sizeable Muslim minority. Germany was the fifth country.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has gained traction across the world as it aims to put pressure on Israel over its violations of international law and repression of Palestinians. However, it has also faced stiff opposition in the US and other western states where sizeable numbers of the population are sympathetic to Israel.

Saudi Arabia saw the highest number of respondents, 71 percent, saying that they were boycotting brands over their perceived support for one side.

Saudi Arabia’s population is overwhelmingly pro-Palestine.

A poll conducted in December by the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Affairs, a pro-Israel think tank, found that 96 percent of Saudi nationals believe Arab countries should cut ties with Israel in response to its war on Gaza.

Before the war, the US was actively working towards an agreement that would see Israel and Saudi Arabia normalise relations.

In the UAE, 57 percent of respondents said they were boycotting brands over the war.

In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, more than one in two people also said they were boycotting brands.

The number of respondents from Arab and Muslim countries who are boycotting products over the war on Gaza is substantially higher than the global average of 37 percent, slightly more than one in three respondents.

‘Consumer Nationalism’ Soars In The Gulf

The boycotts are being felt in Western corporate boardrooms.

In March, retail giant Alshaya Group, which owns the rights to Starbucks in the Middle East, decided to begin laying off over 2,000 staff in the region and North Africa, or four percent of its total workforce, as a result of consumer boycotts linked to Gaza.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski also said earlier this year that sales had been weaker in Muslim-majority countries – such as Malaysia and Indonesia – as well as across the Middle East.

McDonald’s sparked outrage among pro-Palestine activists in October when its Israel franchise announced it was giving free meals to Israeli soldiers in its branches in the country. In Pakistan, the franchise dropped its prices and was forced to put out a statement distancing themselves from McDonald’s in Israel.

“The ongoing impact of the war on these franchisees’ local business is disheartening and ill-founded,” Kempczinski said on Monday, speaking to analysts on the company’s conference call.

Consumers in the Gulf region have long been a prize for Western corporations because their young populations have relatively high purchasing power. Their oil and gas-producing economies have not been hit by wars and crises like other Arab states since the Arab Spring.

Middle East Eye has reported how consumers in Oman, a key Western partner, have been boycotting western goods over the support the US and its allies have provided Israel. They have switched from drinks like Mountain Dew to Kinsa, a Saudi drink brand. In Pakistan, local brands have started producing local products to replace western soft drinks and cosmetics.

The poll also picked up on rising consumer nationalism in Gulf states. The number of respondents in Saudi Arabia and the UAE saying they are buying their country’s brands over foreign ones jumped 13 and 10 points, respectively.

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