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'Israeli-themed' burger wrapper poses PR headache as McDonald's in Muslim nations chip in for Gaza

McDonald's Malaysia is among the franchise owners in Muslim countries which have been channelling humanitarian aid for Palestinians.

3 minute read
A blue and white burger wrapper by a McDonald's outlet in the US which has sparked an outcry on social media.
A blue and white burger wrapper by a McDonald's outlet in the US which has sparked an outcry on social media.

The decision by a McDonald's outlet in the US to wrap its burgers in the Israeli colours of blue and white has sparked global outrage on social media, posing a public relations headache for the fast food chain in Muslim countries where owners have taken pains to distance themselves from allegations of being part of the Israeli war machine in Gaza.

A customer in Chicago had uploaded a video last week, expressing shock and outrage that her burger was wrapped in blue and white, similar to the colours of the Israeli flag. 

In the clip which went viral, she was seen confronting McDonald's staff over the packaging, challenging one who claimed that the wrapper had been used for months. 

"This is in support of Israel. I was here two weeks ago. I think this is disgusting for them to do this. And I know, and you know in your heart clearly what this wrapper is for," she said, before another staff acknowledged that the wrapper had been introduced just a week earlier.

"This is in support to kill Palestinian kids," she told the staff, who assured her that the matter would be brought to the management. 

The clip has threatened to hurt the global fast food franchise, which has been thrust in the midst of a boycott campaign against American interests in Muslim-majority countries where anger has been growing over Washington's moral and material backing to Israel's latest bombardment of Gaza.

McDonald's, one of the US' most iconic fast food brands, has restaurants across the world which are locally owned and operated. 

McDonald's Corporation is owned by shareholders with different owners worldwide, meaning that McDonald's in different countries operates autonomously from one another.

During times of conflict in the occupied territories, franchise owners in Muslim countries habitually state that they do not condone pro-Israeli stunts at other outlets. 

On Oct 15, McDonald's Malaysia, which is owned by Saudi-linked Gerbang Alaf Restaurants, issued a statement distancing itself from the move by McDonald's Israel to announce free food for Israeli soldiers.

The company added that as a Muslim-owned entity, it also contributed to zakah, the obligatory alms in Islam.

The statement however stopped short of saying whether it would stand in solidarity with Palestinians, a move taken by McDonald's Oman.

"We stand with Gaza in these difficult times. Let us all combine our efforts and support the community in Gaza with everything we can," McDonald’s Oman said, also on Oct 15, adding that it had contributed US$100,000 towards humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza.

Two days later, McDonald's Malaysia announced that it was contributing RM1 million to a humanitarian fund for Gaza launched by the Malaysian government.

"Beyond our initial contribution, McDonald's Malaysia is also engaging our employees nationwide in fundraising initiatives to further support relief efforts in Gaza. We hope that our collective endeavour will make a meaningful impact on the lives of those suffering in Gaza," it said.

Similar donations were made by McDonald's in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Turkey.

When contacted, McDonald's Malaysia said the food wrapper in the video was an example of a generic wrapper, used for years in some restaurants for special orders, limited edition products, or due to temporary shortages of designated wrappers. 

"These generic wrappers come in a variety of different colours, including blue, green, purple, yellow, etc. 

"None of the colours are intended to make any political statement. Any portrayal to the contrary is libellous and false," it said in a statement.