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McDonald's Gets Grilled in Africa Over Palestine

By Nizar Al-Aly
RABAT, Morocco,
May 20 2002

RABAT, Morocco, May 20 (IPS) -- "They use our money to kill our children in Palestine," reads an advertisement run by several Moroccan dailies to rally support for a boycott of American products -- including McDonald's -- in Morocco.

Morocco is on the northwest edge of the Afrikan continent.

The advertisement names a large number of United States brands, from Marlboro to McDonald's, that Moroccans are being called upon to boycott as a sign of rejection of U.S. backing of Israel in the conflict against the Palestinians.

"We, as civil society, have the duty to mobilize citizens for a cause that is ... central to us," says Hassan Serrat, a reporter from the Renewal daily newspaper.

Officials from McDonald's Morocco -- which has 16 restaurants in the country -- say the campaign will probably result in a huge loss in profits for the food chain.

Analysts say the Moroccan government is not at ease with the anti-U.S. campaign, although it does not directly intervene to put a halt to it.

For Hassan Nraiss, a businessman from Rabat, said "the boycott campaign is shortsighted ... The Palestinian cause can be better served diplomatically," he told IPS.

The campaign seems to have a positive echo with ordinary consumers. "There are many options for U.S. products. I personally check the products before buying," said one consumer at a supermarket in downtown Rabat.

"The ultimate goal of the boycott campaign is to make U.S. companies put pressure on their government to change its policy in the Middle East," said a member of the boycott coordination committee.

The campaign echoes a mounting clamor in other Arab nations for the boycott of U.S. commodities.