December 11, 2023

Corporate America is grappling with how to navigate its way around how to address the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas.

Calls for boycotts have emerged as one way for consumers to express their disagreements over their stances. Companies like Target, Disney and Bud Light producer Anheuser-Busch InBev have come under attack for their decisions that raised the ire of some customers which have ended up hurting their businesses after the consumer backlash.

Coffee giant Starbucks and fast food giant McDonald’s are two recent examples of companies that have faced boycotts over the way they responded to the issue.

mcdonalds starbucks boycott
McDonald’s in Leicester Square on October 23, 2023, in London, England. The entrance to a Starbucks Coffee shop in downtown Denver, Colorado. Both have faced boycotts for their response to the Israel-Hamas war.
Matt Cardy/Robert Alexander/Getty Images

It has been more than a month since Hamas perpetrated an attack in Israel that led to the deaths of 1,200 Israelis, according to the Associated Press. Israel’s military response to the attack in Gaza has led to the deaths of more than 11,400 Palestinians, according to the AP.

In recent weeks, Starbucks and McDonald’s have faced criticism over the issue.

The fast food giant McDonald’s has faced boycott calls after its franchise in Israel said in social media posts that it would donate meals to the Israel Defense Forces. Some took to social media to argue that “supporting companies that are involved in conflicts is wrong, especially when it comes to the loss of innocent lives.”

Newsweek reached out to McDonald’s for comment on Friday afternoon via email.

Meanwhile, Starbucks also has faced boycott calls. After a union of its employees Starbucks Workers United posted a social media post—that was later deleted— perceived as being pro-Palestinian, the company said in a statement that “people were mistakenly tying these remarks to us, because Workers United, its affiliates and members continue to use our name, logo and intellectual property.”

The two sides are now engaged in a legal dispute over the issue, the Associated Press has reported.

In response to request for comment, a Starbucks spokesperson directed Newsweek to its statement.

Newsweek reached out to Starbucks Workers United via email for comment on Friday afternoon.

It’s unclear yet whether the boycott calls against Starbucks and McDonald’s have hurt the company. Starbucks’ share price is up nearly 13 percent over the last month, according to Google Finance data. McDonald’s stock, meanwhile, is up nearly 8 percent over the last month, Google Finance data showed.

During times of contentious debates, it was important that companies exhibit empathy for all that are impacted by the issue, some analysts say.

“The critical thing is that they acknowledge the existence of the experience of the other side,” Angela Berg, founder of workplace consultancy firm Perelaks, told the AP.