The warning labels are found on a number of Israeli, American and European products.

Jordanians boycott American companies seen as pro-Israeli

As Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza continues, a boycott campaign is growing in the Middle East and beyond. In Jordan, many have stopped buying American and European products that they say support Israel financially or have a pro-Israel stance. Starbucks and McDonald’s in Amman sit mostly empty. In supermarkets, everyday items carry warnings.

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At the Shooneez supermarket in Amman, the capital of Jordan, products have two kinds of labels.

One announces the price. The other has a red label to alert customers if the product is on a list of boycotted items.

It reads, “Be aware. These products are boycotted. Your choice.”

A red warning label states, "Attention: This item is boycotted. The choice is yours."

A red warning label states, "Attention: This item is boycotted. The choice is yours."

Credit:

Shirin Jaafari/The World

The grassroots boycott movement against Israel and supporters of Israel is not new. But the movement has gained new supporters across countries in the Middle East and elsewhere since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, taking over 200 hostages and killing 1,400 people. In response, the Israeli military launched another aggressive bombing campaign in Gaza, killing over 20,000 people and destroying much of the infrastructure there.

Rania Zaid, a shopper in Amman, said she used to buy chocolates, sneakers and Nescafe for her kids. But she stopped after the war started.

Zaid said every time she shops, she looks at the packaging, and if it says the product is made in the US or Europe, she doesn’t buy it.

At the Shooneez supermarket in Amman, products have two kinds of labels.

At the Shooneez supermarket in Amman, products have two kinds of labels. One announces the price. The other has a red label to alert customers if the product is on a list of boycotted items.

Credit:

Laura Boushnak/The World

“Even if it’s something simple and small, it’s what we can do,” she said. “This way, our minds are at ease that we’re not supporting the war.”

Many in Jordan and in other Arab countries say that Israel’s war on Gaza would not be possible without the backing of the US and some European countries, where many of these big corporations are based.

Both McDonald’s and Starbucks have issued statements trying to distance themselves from this conflict.

But that has had little effect in Jordan.

Hasan Abu Qaoud is the store supervisor at the Marouf café in Amman.

The Marouf café in Amman has hired several staff that left Starbucks, due to their "pro-Israel" stance.

The Marouf café in Amman has hired several staff that left Starbucks, due to their "pro-Israel" stance. 

Credit:

Laura Boushnak/The World

He said he left his job at Starbucks about three weeks ago because he could no longer work for a company that, as he sees it, has a pro-Israeli stance. 

“I wanted to leave because I feel that I have to do something for the boycott to support the Palestinian people also,” he said. 

His former colleagues tell him sales have dropped significantly. And now, those employees are considering leaving, too.

This shift in consumer behavior has had some benefit for local businesses.

Anas Abu Odeh, the owner of the Marouf coffee company, said he’s seen a 30% increase in sales since the war began.

“So, we add more staff, we add more stock and actually we add[ed] 100 more employees in our staff for this period,” he said.

Anas Abu Odeh is the owner of the Marouf coffee company in Amman, Jordan.

Anas Abu Odeh is the owner of the Marouf coffee company in Amman, Jordan.

Credit:

Laura Boushnak/The World

At the same time, the head of Jordan’s Labor Observatory, Ahmad Awad said this week that about 15,000 people could lose their jobs as a result of these boycotts.

Souad al-Dawood also switched from Starbucks to the local Marouf café. She said the boycott movement has helped her pay more attention to what she buys.

“When I go to the market, I look at the product itself and read and sometimes, I open Google and check what products are in this country, the company, which country it is from. When it’s something related to English, like UK, US, French, I leave it,” she said.

Souad al-Dawood also switched from Starbucks to the local Marouf café.

Souad al-Dawood also switched from Starbucks to the local Marouf café. 

Credit:

Laura Boushnak/The World

Not everyone is convinced, Dawood said. Her father, for example, doesn’t think the boycott movement will make much difference.

Dawood disagrees.

“When we keep pushing and supporting and protesting, definitely something big will happen,” she said. 

Dawood, a pediatric dentist, said she had planned to go to the US to study. But the US’ support for Israel has changed her mind. 

“I used to love, to admire … and I used to have a dream to go there and do something like a PhD or more clinical attachment there and I’m now not even surprised.” 

She’s disgusted, she said, that the US is not doing more to stop the deaths in Gaza.

Dawood said she will continue with her boycott. In fact, she says she doesn’t see herself going to Starbucks or McDonald’s ever again.

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