'No place for silence or neutrality': Moroccans boycott pro-Israeli businesses amid Israel's war on Gaza
Amid Israel's new war on Gaza, several Moroccans have decided to boycott companies and institutions with pro-Israeli stances or made tone-deaf statements regarding the Palestinian cause.
On 15 October, BDS Morocco, a local organisation affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions international movement, launched its call to boycott pro-Israel companies during a national anti-normalisation rally that witnessed the presence of thousands of activists and politicians.
"As a civil society, we can apply pressure by boycotting companies that support the occupation's crimes. It's a power that we have and should use," Sion Asidon, a renowned pro-Palestine activist and head of BDS Morocco, told The New Arab on the rally day.
BDS Morocco's call has focused on boycotting French retail chain Carrefour, which signed a partnership with Electra Consumer Products and its subsidiary Yenot Bitan last year, both operating within illegal Israeli settlements.
Amid Israel's 'genocide on Gaza', will Morocco revoke normalisation with Tel Aviv...once again?https://t.co/pKoDh75mCC— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) October 17, 2023
The BDS movement has long called for an international boycott of the company over "involvement in war crimes committed by the Israeli regime, settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people."
However, the ongoing Israeli bombing of Gaza has pushed more Moroccans to join the campaign, with several young Moroccans extending their boycott to all the companies that posted on social media apologetic messages for "Tel Aviv's genocide in Gaza."
"I can't sleep knowing that I spent my money in a place that legitimises the Israeli apartheid," Aya, a Moroccan university student who joined the campaign, remarked to TNA.
PR and occupation
McDonald's, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and other chain food franchises popular among the youth are the main targets of the ongoing campaign.
These corporations have had a record of using the conflict for their PR.
In 2017, the food company Pizza Hut's Israeli branch shared a picture on social media mocking Marwan Barghouti, the leader of a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
"Marwan Barghouti, if you're going to break a strike, why not pizza?" tweeted the company at the time;
Following 7 October, many companies quickly stood in solidarity with Israel.
In a series of Instagram posts in Hebrew, McDonald's Israel said: "We intend to donate thousands of meals every day to soldiers in the field and drafting areas, and this is beyond a discount to soldiers coming to restaurants."
Shortly after, McDonald's franchises in the rest of the region issued press releases distancing themselves from the Tel Aviv franchise, with some promising donations to Gaza. McDonald's Morocco did not comment.
Meanwhile, Starbucks, which also tweeted in support of Israel, has sued its workers' union after their post in support of Palestine.
Starbucks has demanded that Workers United stop using the name "Starbucks Workers United," claiming that their post damaged the brand image and led to thousands of complaints.
"Starbucks is seeking to exploit the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East to bolster the company's anti-union campaign," Workers United President Lynne Fox wrote in a letter shared by AP news agency.
Is Boycott effective?
While the effects of the ongoing boycott have yet to be officially measured, BDS boycott campaigns have proved efficient in the past years.
According to the authors of a UN report, BDS was a key factor behind the 46% drop in foreign direct investment into Israel in 2014 compared to 2013.
Reports by the Israeli government and the Rand Corporation have predicted that BDS could cost the Israeli economy billions of dollars.
Caught in the crossfire, businesses across the corporate world seek to find a balance in their responses to the war that don't offend users, partners and employees, with some preferring silence to preserve their interests.
However, several boycotters in Morocco say there's no place for silence or neutrality amid the ongoing genocide against Palestinians.
"Pretending that nothing is happening is also not acceptable. Palestinian men, women and children are massacred daily. The least they can do is speak up for them," said Samia, a Moroccan artisan, who decided also to boycott Morocco-based Western institutions and art centres which did not comment on the events.
Last week, several students and activists interrupted a play at the American Arts Center in Casablanca, calling out the institution's complicity and "guilty silence."
The American Arts Center in Casablanca did not comment on the events at the time of publication.
The boycott campaigns are getting louder across the region, with activists stressing the importance of a long-time commitment to achieve the campaign's goals.