Tens of demonstrators gathered outside a Starbucks café in Beirut on Tuesday, accusing the American coffee chain of ‘financing Zionism' and for being in part responsible for what's happening in Gaza. Yara Harakeh tells us why she chose to demonstrate. Read more and see photos of the demo below.
Held in Hamra, a Sunni area of Beirut, the demo forced the café to close for the day. Calls for boycotting Starbucks are nothing new though. On the internet, many sites and Facebook groups have been set up on this theme. They accuse the president of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, of being a ‘propagandist for Israel’, a blatant Zionist and of actively supporting George W Bush’s policies in the Middle East. Other American giants have also been targets of this campaign, in particular MacDonalds.
These accusations, made for a number of years now, have been denied by Starbucks. In a statement in 2006, the US company explained that it wasn’t in any way linked to the Israeli Army and that it “didn’t support any political cause".
Anti-Starbucks campaigns on Facebook
“We are anti-Zionist, not anti-semitic”
Yara Harakeh, 23, has just finished her studies in biochemistry and is hunting for a job. She was one of the organisers of Tuesday’s demo in front of Starbucks.Starbucks finances the Israeli Army. I know they deny it but we have documentation to prove it. And yet the chain makes a big part of its profit in the Arab world, where it has over 1,000 branches. I don't yet know if our action has been very effective. Today hardly anyone was at the Starbucks in Hamra. But we have to wait a few days to see if the demo really stopped people coming to the café. Whatever happens, we won't stop there. Tomorrow we'll be doing the same thing again outside the Starbucks in Verdun (the area where Beirut's Franco-Lebanese high school is). This is the right time to get this boycotting campaign against Starbucks going again. With all that's going on in Gaza, people are more open to our message.
But I want to make it clear that we are anti-Zionist, not anti-semitic, which is very different. They were in fact anti-semitic slogans heard at our demo but they were from people who weren't part of our group and we managed to stop them quickly."
Photos taken by protestors that Yara posted on her Facebook page