A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

a venti of Zionism, extra hot: Starbucks and Israel

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 17, 2009

I saw that protesters closed one of the Starbucks in Beirut this week, my father said after he and my mother picked me up at the Seattle airport. Did we pass that one when we visited?

They definitely did – I took them on a full tour of Hamra. But we didn’t stop at any Starbucks during their visit to Beirut – the Starbucks franchises in Lebanon used to drive me nuts. First, because of their unapologetically erratic tea supply, and second, because of the lack of milk at the milk station. At Lebanon’s Starbucks, the only way to get milk in your tea or coffee is to ask for it when you order – and then ask for it again when the barista makes your drink, since the message never seems to get passed otherwise. Nor does the order-taker ask you whether you would like milk. Sigh.

But at least Lebanon has Starbucks, so I could order a venti to go whenever I needed a portable shot of caffeine in a jumbo size. Guess what country doesn’t have a Starbucks? Not even one?

Israel.

I understand that Starbucks did partner with a local company to open a few franchises there in the early 2000s, but they failed: not enough customers. Meanwhile, the Arab world is filled with Starbucks outlets.

Maybe Howard Schultz is an ardent Zionist, but it 1) doesn’t seem to have gotten in the way of the company’s business focus and 2) doesn’t seem to have driven Israelis to patronize his shops.

The wide currency of the belief that he donates 5, 10, or 15% of the company’s profits to Israel (in a publicly traded company?) meant that Starbucks issued an official “Rumor Response” on January 5, long before the Beirut dozens decided to gather on Hamra. The response stated:

Rumors that Starbucks Coffee Company and its management support Israel are unequivocally false.

Starbucks is a publicly traded company with stores in 49 countries. Though our thousands of partners (employees) and business associates around the globe have diverse views and share many beliefs about a wide range of topics, our primary focus remains to deliver the best customer experience possible. Starbucks is a non-political organization and does not support political causes. Further, the political preferences of a Starbucks partner at any level have absolutely no bearing on Starbucks company policies.

I’m perfectly willing to protest the fact that Lebanon’s Starbucks miss the boat when it comes to adding milk, because I have proof. I’ve looked into the Schultz/Zionism connection, and while he seems to be an observant (Reform) Jew who has been to Israel, he doesn’t appear to be rabidly Zionist. (If he were, why open so many Starbucks outlets around the Arab world?) Before I boycott the company, I would like to see the paper trail.

15 Responses to “a venti of Zionism, extra hot: Starbucks and Israel”

  1. smk said

    Thank you Diamond!

    You have no idea how many arguments/debates/discussions I have had with friends and family over the alleged Starbucks/Israel ties. It truly does amaze me to see how people blindly follow a rumor, text or email and assume it to be true without further thought or research. Like you, I demand proof of any allegation before jumping on the protest bandwagon.

    Yes, I will admit, I am a Starbucks junkie . . . I can’t walk or drive past a Starbucks without stopping (I even mapped out every Starbucks location before my last trip to Lebanon so I knew exactly where I needed to go =D ) . . . just the other day, a friend and I entered into the same debate when she saw my triple venti sugar free vanilla soy latte in my hand. When I asked for “proof” of the allegations, I was shown the standard text message . . . my response? I sent HER a text message saying “if you believe every text msg you receive, then note, I’ve got a wonderful bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.” 😉

    On a related note – I don’t understand why Starbucks’ statement hasn’t been mentioned in the media. Why haven’t media outlets done the proper research in the matter when reporting on such boycotts. Isn’t it the media’s responsibility to provide truthful and accurate reporting? Fine . . . report about the protesters who managed to close the Beirut Starbucks, but why not follow up the report with a discussion/investigations of the allegations against Starbucks?

  2. Mark Stuart said

    First let me say that even if you don’t research Schultz’ connection to zionism deeply one can agree that: Howard Schultz is a wealthy observant Jew.And let’s not kid ourselves, there aren’t that many wealthy observant Jews in the US that doesn’t send money to Israel, that doesn’t contribute one way or an other to the State of Israel regardless of Israel’s policies at home or abroad.

    A quick check on the Internet “Starbucks-Israel” didn’t reveal anything fishy.However, googling “Starbucks-Israeli settlements,” revealed a goldmine of information.And after reading all the material available in the public domain, there is no doubt in my mind that Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks is an active zionist. Hence the need to boycott Starbucks.

    In 1998 he was honoured by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with “The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” for his services to the zionist state. (The Independent
    It is interesting to notice that if you go to Starbucks website today there is no mention of this award. But if you look for their old pages on here : Archive the award was listed! (the site browses through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.)

    And if you’re not convinced of the zionist leaning of the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah and its relationship with Howard Schultz, start your search on the organization here: Aish HaTorah

    They fund a zionist propaganda reporting, sponsor Isreali Arms Fairs…

    Furthermore, look here News Meatat Howard Schultz political contribution in the US: lots of pro-zionism out there!

    And at the Israel Policy Forum by M.J. Rosenberg: “Starbucks has long been boycotted by anti-Israel groups because of Schultz’ outspoken support for Israel…”

    Respectfully,
    Mark

  3. Kheireddine said

    He is not the only one, most wealthy Jews who donate large sums to Israel hold key positions in international corporations. It would be stupid to go back the blacklist days (1967-1990) where major companies like Coca Cola and Ford were banned in the Arab World. We are turning in circle…

  4. Mark Stuart said

    The problem with the previous boycott was that it was a top-down movement not a grass root one. It was not a consumer initiative coming from consumers themselves. The initiative came then from leaders in the region whose main concern has always been and is still today public perception of their leadership in the streets of Cairo or Algiers. And we all know the level of efficiency of any initiative coming from political leaders in the region.
    One other reason i think is that in Arab and Muslim populations there was then little awareness of grass consumer movements and their efficacy, and little sense of individual civic responsibility.

    Boycotts are now much easier to successfully initiate due to the Internet.Internet-initiated boycotts “snowball” very quickly compared to other forms of organization. Examples abounds. It cannot realistically include every product, company or individual that is directly or remotely involved financially in Israel. In the age of globalization it would be ludicrous to think that we could achieve such a comprehensive boycott. The list to boycott should be carefully studied and targeted for best effect and efficiency. Coca Cola or Mc Donald are to me perfect examples of companies that could easily and efficiently be targeted by a grass root movement at very little cost to the individual citizen and still make a huge impact. Those companies market to the socially low-end of the global consumer spectrum, to which most of the Arab and Muslim worlds belong. And what would it cost to an individual to abstain from buying their products? how hard would it be to drink water instead of Coka (it’s healthier anyway!) ? and how hard would it be to buy a local sandwich rather than a Hamburger from Mc Donald (it’s much healthier anyway!) ? Those are initiatives that could be easy to carry, implement, efficient and very powerful.

    Furthermore, on a more personal individual and spiritual level, i genuinely believe that as a private individual citizen of this world,who holds values and morals, i think that it is the least we could do all over the world. Even if that’s the only thing i can do, even if i’m the only one on the bloc sticking to the boycott, i will do it. Because on the day of reckoning when God asks me: ” what did you do for the poor people of Palestine” i want to be able to say i tried.

  5. Nimrod said

    Well well….interesting reading.

    The reason Starbucks didn’t do too well over here, is that their coffee sucks. Nothing to do with high politics – just low quality. There are several immensely successful local coffee chains (Aroma, Joe’s, Cafe-Cafe, Hillel), that proved more suited to the Israeli taste. Starbucks’ coffee has a burnt flavor, much liked by the Americans . We prefer our coffee more Italian style.

    But of course coffee is not the main issue here. The key points I gathered from the learned discussion above are:

    1.Jews are rich and influential.
    2.Rich Jews support Israel
    3.Lets boycott businesses that are owned by rich Jews.

    As long as these anti-Semitic concepts prevail, I see no hope for peace and reconciliation in our part of the world. It’s time to leave old hatreds behind, and look forward to a future free of hate, brutality, and unnecessary human suffering. Try to see things from the south side of the Lebanese border – you might realise that your preconceived ideas about Jews, Zionists and Israelis are wrong or outdated.

    Then we can peacefully argue about coffee 😉

    Nimrod
    Naharia, Israel

  6. SMK, Mark, Kheireddine, and Nimrod,

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. SMK and Nimrod, it sounds like the two of you in particular have a great deal to discuss when it comes to coffee, at least in quality terms :). Mark, I understand your concerns, particularly about Aish HaTorah – which as I am sure you know was most recently involved in the distribution of Obsession to swing state voters – but let us remember that in 1998 to many people it probably looked like a nice pro-Israel organization. Also, I find it important to distinguish between private donations and corporate donations. Starbucks is a public company, and its business decisions have not been anti-Arab or pro-Israel. (In fact, and as Nimrod probably knows better than I do, when the company did pull out of Israel, there was a strong reaction from many American Jews in the US and Israel – they saw it as Starbucks’ decision to join the Arab world boycott.) Kheireddine’s point about the personal leanings of corporate leaders is one to ponder – particularly for those of us who remember drinking Coca-Cola in Syria when it was still “banned”.

  7. Mark Stuart said

    To Nimrod:

    1.Jews are rich and influential:
    Nowhere in my post do I make the assumption that all Jews are rich!

    2.Rich Jews support Israel:
    it is a fact here in the US or in Europe. Maybe not in Israel, i’ve been there twice only. Not enough to judge. But if you can’t accept this fact, indeed we’ll have to agree to disagree. But it’s like stating that most rich black Americans support NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People the main black lobby in Congress.It is a fact and there is nothing racist in that comment. So why should it come across as racist when it comes to Jews?

    3.Lets boycott businesses that are owned by rich Jews:
    If the assumption is true that most rich Jews are supporting the policies of Israel domestically and abroad through lobby groups like AIPAC, it does make sense in my eyes, doesn’t it?

    The problem is when some Jews in our communities decide to accuse you of anti-semitism when one criticizes Israel’s policies. If you criticize Israel, then you’re probably a Jew hater. And this problem stems from the fact that the State of Israel itself like most of its citizens, has never resolved its moral and spiritual dilemma regarding it’s religious and ethnic identity: is it a secular or religious state? If i criticize Israel for some of its policies, does it make me an anti-semite?I think not!

    Most wealthy Jews in America and Europe do support financially Israel, one way or an other, regardless of its policies at home or abroad. They do benefit from a powerful lobby here in Washington: AIPAC. That you decide to be candid about those facts or disingenuous, it’s your call. But acknowledging it doesn’t make me a Jew hater or an anti-semite. It is unfair and annoying to be constantly accused of racism or anti-semitism when one points out or voices thoughts even remotely critical of members of a community, be they Jewish, Blacks, Homosexual, Christians or else.

    And as an individual who doesn’t believe in violent action as a political mean, i have only at my disposal the power of the pen or the one of the purse string. I hope you’d rather have me boycott wealthy Jews who contribute to AIPAC rather than contribute myself to Hamas, wouldn’t you?

  8. Nimrod said

    Mark,

    Criticizing Israeli (or any other country’s ) policies and actions is perfectly legitimate. Trying to tie an imaginary link between Jews, money, political power, and various evils, is a time-honored anti-Semitic ploy, well documented throughout history from the Spanish inquisition through the protocols of the elders of Zion, peaking to great heights in Nazi Germany, and unfortunately still alive and kicking today.

    If you feel (as I do) that the middle east conflict is solvable, throwing oil into the fire with such remarks does not bring us even one step closer to a solution. Differences can be met only if both sides agree that the other has a legitimate right to exist in peace and dignity. Instigating economic war through antisemitic insinuations achieves only the opposite.

  9. Mark Stuart said

    I guess you don’t get it Nimrod so we’ll have to agree to disagree. But don’t call me an anti-semite when all i’m saying is that i am tired of Jews here or let’s say American with dual citizenship in America influencing our foreign policies through AIPAC. It’s a fact wether you want to admit it or not. I disagree with Israel’s policies i have nothing against Jews. It’s called anti-zionism! it’s common sense. Would you like a strong American lobby influencing your policies over there and force you to a peace plan you wouldn’t want? I think not. And it’s not racism.

    Furthermore, i don’t pretend to bring the answer or even the beginning of a solution for your troubles over there. I’m not that conceited. You guys will have to sort it out, once you’re tired of war, the same way we here in the US or in other countries have done. But stop syphoning off our hard earned Dollars !

    -1948 the UN creates Israel.
    -Then we, Americans, throw our full fledge support behind Israel for decades fearing the elusive spread of communism in the region.
    -Add to that over $1.6 Trillon at taxpayers’ expense, at Americans’ taxpayers’ expense. Not yours.

    What do we get? Zilch! Zero! But a big headache, a few terrorist attacks on our soil and on our men and women abroad and the most outrageous deficit. And still most of the Jewish population doesn’t even live in Israel! And most of you guys enjoy dual citizenship. You find that fair?

    So as an American who has been paying a lot for nothing through the years, allow me to say : boycott Israel and whoever supports its policies! Any Jew is welcome in my home. But don’t ask me to finance your political adventures in the Middle East. Now if i’m not their when the call comes to defend Jews as a people who deserve dignity and respect as much as any other human being, then you can call me an anti-semite. Until then i’m an anti-zionist! And don’t try the Jewish guilt on me, it won’t work!…lol

    Smooch!

  10. Kheireddine said

    Thank you Mark! And there won’t be peace in the Middle East unless the US becomes a fair broker…

  11. Mark Stuart said

    Don’t thank me Kheirddine. It’s the truth: either we are able to play fair broker and we force both parties into peace, or I say we just cut our loss and get the hell out of there.

    I understand the dilemma the Jewish people face. They need a land of their own, they have been wandering and persecuted for centuries. But what they are doing is not the answer.There is a Jewish proverb that says:

    “One who is merciful to the wicked will ultimately be cruel to the righteous.” Jewish Proverb

    This simple proverb embodies the deepest most esoteric reality of the modern Jewish People struggling for a State of their own after having suffered inhuman atrocities:we have been merciful to the Nazis, let’s be cruel to the Palestinians!

    Sorry Nimrod, but I will never be merciful to the wicked and cruel to the righteous!

  12. Nimrod said

    Wow! what amazing misconceptions! I don’t know where to begin…

    I’ll start at the beginning, as far back as we know it:

    Israel was not founded in 1948 by the UN. Israel already existed more than 3200 years ago, and about 2000 years ago most of the Jews were sent into exile by the Romans. Throughout the many years in the diaspora, the Jewish people contributed (when allowed) to local economies,culture,science, medicine and arts, fought in the local armies, and were generally good citizens of their countries. Although faced with many hardships, some of the Jews managed to to do quite well.

    Fast-forward to the late 19th century:

    The land of Israel is a desolate and bare strip of real estate in a remote corner of the declining Turkish empire. Most of the land is either swamps or deserts. The population is about 50,000 with 10% Jews who have never left their homeland. The rest are an ethnic mixture, but mostly Muslim peasants originating from what is now Iraq and Syria, cultivating less than 5% of the land, which is owned by wealthy Ottomans or various religious organizations. The only cities are Jerusalem, Jaffa and Acre.

    In the 1880’s Jewish influx starts to grow through various political movements, financed by funds donated by wealthy Jews, notably Baron Edmond de Rothschild. 1897, the Zionist movement is created, and massive purchases of land are made. None of these funds are from the American taxpayer.

    1917 is a turning point. Palestine is taken by the British from the Turks. Britain leads a virtually one-sided policy. It splits Palestine along the Jordan river, creating two states: The kingdom of Jordan on the east, and Israel/Palestine (under British mandate) on the west. With Jewish funding and hard labor, the country prospers. Cities are created, factories built, swampland is drained into farmland. This desolate and remote land nobody wants (read Mark Twain’s descriptions) is suddenly attractive. Between 1931-46 The Brits, through racist immigration laws, enable much greater Arab immigration than Jewish. According to the UN, the Jewish population in this time period grew from about 175,000 to about 600,000, while the Muslim population grew from 493,000 to about one million (Let’s remember that this time period includes the second world war. had the British allowed, millions of Jews would have fled Nazi extermination and come to Israel).
    Throughout, Jewish national institutions are created. An unofficial government if you please. The taxpayers to this government are the Jewish people from around the world. Money is donated by everybody, not just the rich, to the common cause: rebuilding our homeland.

    Again, up to this point, not one cent of American government funds has been given to Israel.

    In 1948, the UN recognized Israel. The British are out, and war begins. The invading Arab armies are defeated, and Israeli independence begins. What did the US do for Israel? practically nothing. Not one rifle, plane or tank was given or even sold to the struggling new democracy. Israel is perceived as socialist, and pro-Russia – very bad at the time.

    When did Israel start getting generous financial and political support from the US? only after 1967. The six-day war (fought with french arms mostly BTW) was a turning point. The US realized Israel is a western-oriented democracy in the midst of corrupt pro-Russian Arab dictatorships, that firmly believes in the same values as most Americans do. From that point on, many American Dollars were invested protecting American interests in the middle-east, by supporting Israel. You may agree or (a wild guess) disagree on the validity of this strategic policy, but even today the US has no better ally in the region.

    Like most Israelis, I have only one citizenship. We are not “citizens of the world” with dual citizenship as you have inferred. I was born here, raised here, built my family and career here, fought for my country, and have no intention of leaving it. Still, like most Israelis, I wish to live in peace with my neighbors, and I’m willing to go to great lengths to gain peaceful co-existence in the future.

    Hatred is easy. It comes naturally, and provides gratification if you convince yourself that the hated are indeed evil. Then you can ‘agree to disagree’ as you’ve said. Reaching peaceful solutions and trying to ‘agree to agree’, is much more difficult.

  13. Mark Stuart said

    yadi yadi yada!
    We all heard that version of history. But sorry again, there might have been tribes, city states, but that land you’re talking about was never A STATE OF ISRAEL! Period! Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in peace side by side under Muslim rulers for centuries until some european socialist Jews decided to impose their views and agenda to the Jews in Palestine, the rest of the world Jewish population and the world!

    That’s when the troubles started. There isn’t even any theological legality in the existence of Israel according to Jewish scholars, not according to Ehud Olmert or this politician or that one, but according to Jewish theological scholars.

    You keep sounding like a broken record:” i’m hateful, i hate jews, i’m not giving you a solution…”yadi yadi yada Believe what you may. It’s easier to burry your head in the sand rather than face genuine criticism and look for genuine efficient answers to real actual issues. It’s always the others, the world is anti-semite, they don’t like us…..we all heard it. Stop whining and do something, something better, more human and efficient than mass bombing of civilian populations!! And don’t ask us to pay for it afterward!

    The bottom line is that there are a lot of Americans here that are sick and tired of spending so much money for nothing, and i hope that the current economic crisis will make our leaders think twice before signing a blank check to Israel. And find your solutions yourselves, you didn’t help here, the French did , not you. Stop dragging us into your abyss!

    For an American, It’s that simple.

  14. Kheireddine said

    Dear Mark, you expressed perfectly what we, moderate Arabs, think.

  15. Mark Stuart said

    With all due respect, from one human soul to an other, there is no moderate arabs (that’s a western terminology i’d rather avoid at least in this context):
    There are just those who believe in truth and justice and the others. Then, there are people who might not be well versed in geostrategy or geopolitics and still dare voice their opinion or theories with arrogance and ignorance, act on them and cause more harm then good.
    I personally would rather focus and limit myself to the level of my awareness and knowledge and not venture in the realm of geopolitics. So i do what i consider possible without harming anyone, like a boycott, and leave people who God has chosen to put in position of power to live up to their duties or face His wrath. Unfortunately nowadays, in the age of IT, anyone who has access to the internet and can read, would like to give his opinions the authority of scholars who spent a lifetime studying. It is one thing to have an opinion, it is an other to give it the authority it does not deserve to begin with. And i personally think that it is a the doing of the ego, rather than a lack of ‘moderation’.

    I can do that to help too: We Will Not Go Down In Gaza Tonight

    Respectfully,
    Mark.

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