The Washington Times
8 May 2002
From combined dispatches
A growing number of Arabs are shunning U.S. goods, ranging from
cigarettes to Big Macs, in protest of Washington's perceived pro-Israel
Unable to influence their own governments, activists in Arab civic
organizations, student groups and professional associations are
urging their people to buy local and European alternatives to American
Boycott organizers have drawn up lists of companies, mainly American,
that are thought to channel aid to Israel. Among them are companies
making products from cigarettes and medications to fast food and
So far, fast-food chains appear to be feeling the pressure the
Managers at KFC and McDonald's branches in the Omani capital of
Muscat said sales had fallen by 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively,
A senior executive at Kuwait-based Americana, which has exclusive
rights to operate several U.S. franchises including Pizza
Hut and Baskin-Robbins across the Middle East, said that
during the past few months profits and sales fell by 45 percent
in Jordan, 40 percent in Egypt and 20 percent across the Persian
In the Saudi Arabian city of Jidda, Coca-Cola was the worst hit
of the U.S. brands, down 60 percent, said Ibrahim Mahrous, sales
manager at the Ben Dawood supermarket. Pepsi Cola sales were off
45 percent, and Procter & Gamble Co. products, such as Pampers
diapers, slid as much as 35 percent.
"It's turning very serious," said Mahmoud el-Kaissouni,
an executive with an industry association representing 22 fast-food
chains, including McDonald's, Kenny Rogers' Roasters and Little
Caesar pizza. "The number of people going into these restaurants
is less and less every day, despite all that we're doing."
The association has been leading a campaign on television to warn
of the threat to Egyptian jobs, he said.
In Morocco, the newspapers L'Economiste and Assabah have started
a campaign against the dollar, printing a headline every day urging
Moroccans to avoid using the currency in their business dealings.
"Boycott the dollar in your operations for the sake of Palestine.
Whenever possible, opt for the euro," it said.
Hamdy el-Sayed said the Egyptian Doctors' Syndicate, which he heads,
has sent doctors and pharmacies a list of U.S.-made medical products
with alternative local or European products.
"We understand this is not economically effective, because
people would continue to buy American goods. This action has more
of a symbolic value than a real effect," Mr. el-Sayed said.
In Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, some private hospitals have stopped
buying products from drug makers, including New York-based Bristol-Myers
Analysts are not worried about the effect on the drug maker, saying
that the Middle East is only a small portion of its business.
"I'm wondering what they are using as alternatives over there,"
said Douglas Christopher, analyst with Crowell, Weedon & Co.
He added that such problems are the risk that multinational companies
"have to live with."
"It's just part of the political risk that's there,"
Mr. Christopher said.
Marie Driscoll, analyst with Argus Research who follows several
fast-food chains, agreed.
McDonald's, for instance, tries to educate local residents that
in fact it is a local company. "They hire locally and source
things locally, so when people hurt McDonald's thinking they are
hurting America, they are really hurting the local citizens the
most," she said.
"Nobody likes to see terrorism, and this is one of the ways
they counteract it, but I think we're in a kind of a different world
after September 11 and don't know if they've addressed that,"
she said. "But I don't think that any company has."
Staff writer Kristina Stefanova contributed to this report.