If you’ve been on social media at all in the last month, I’m sure you’ve seen a range of posts, stories and videos about the Israel-Hamas war. Everywhere you look, there are vague condemnations of violence and celebrities posting captionless pictures of flags. Buried among these (pretty unhelpful) posts, you can also find links to places to donate and petitions to sign, as well as lists of companies to boycott. This article hopes to shed some light on what to boycott and where to go instead.
Although I referred to it as a war, I believe what’s happening in Gaza right now is truly a genocide. I’m not going to get into it too much; you can open a new tab to literally any news website and then come back. I’d also ask you to use your critical thinking skills and look at multiple sources. And look up the definition of genocide real quick. And the history of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
I’ll assume it’s been a few hours and you’ve come back, hopefully with the context to know I’m right about the Israeli government and military orchestrating a genocide on Palestinian civilians. It’s also important to note that President Joe Biden stands firmly with Israel and requested that the U.S. send them $14.3 billion in military aid.
Biden might want to support genocide, but I personally don’t.
To me, that means not buying from the companies that are currently funding or otherwise supporting said genocide. If that sounds like a worthy goal to you, you’ll need to decide which companies you’re going to stop buying from and start boycotting.
Boycotting: How it Works and When it Doesn’t
According to Merriam-Webster, a boycott is when consumers band together and decide to stop buying from a company as a form of protest. Boycotts are most effective when lots of people participate and cause a significant dip in sales. This puts pressure on the company to change whatever’s being protested, whether it’s a financial policy, a CEO or a political statement. A good boycott also garners lots of media attention, putting further pressure on the company.
In the past month, social media users have been posting pictures of dozens of company logos, telling people to boycott them because they support the genocide in Gaza. Most of the posts that I’ve seen have no sources and no explanation as to how any of the companies are complicit in the genocide.
Additionally, these posts are not consistent; two users could see two different boycott lists and start boycotting completely different companies. This means people’s boycotting efforts are spread out against a ton of companies, causing none of them to experience significant financial loss.
Where to Find a Reputable List of Companies to Boycott
Though these lists on social media have their failings, all hope is not lost. Any smart internet user knows you need to find reliable sources; in this case, the best source is the Palestinian-led movement “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS). According to their website, BDS “upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.”
BDS’s website is a great place to get educated on the Palestine territories and the current genocide in Gaza. They also outline things you can do to actually support the Palestinian territories, such as joining a government pressure campaign or mobilizing organizations in your community to cut off relations with the Israeli government. They also have a detailed boycott campaign against the companies they believe are most complicit in the genocide in Gaza. Among them are five U.S businesses, and they all happen to be fast-food chains with locations in or around Albion.
What to Boycott and Why
The businesses in question are McDonald’s, Burger King, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s. They’re all being boycotted for the same reason: Their Israeli locations have donated substantial amounts of food to Israel Defense Forces, the troops that have bombed hospitals, cut off Gaza’s water supply and killed thousands of civilians. But sure, give them some free burgers.
Since these donations have come from franchised locations – restaurants where private investors can buy and operate locations – it is a little unclear how this connects to the company on a corporate level. McDonald’s, for one, released a statement that said, “McDonald’s Corporation is not funding or supporting any governments involved in this conflict, and any actions from our local Developmental Licensee business partners were made independently without McDonald’s consent or approval.” Additionally, several McDonald’s in different Middle Eastern countries have either donated to Gaza relief funds or otherwise shown their support for Palestine.
Each franchise location has a different owner, and you’re not going to be sending money to the McDonald’s in Israel by going to the McDonald’s in Albion, so the question of whether or not to boycott is tricky.
The BDS has a response to this quandary. In an post made on X, formerly known as Twitter, from Oct. 23, BDS states that “The parent company is complicit for allowing its Israeli branch to support an ongoing military aggression that leading scholars of genocide have described as a ‘textbook case of genocide.’”
I believe that boycotting or not boycotting these chain restaurants could each be a valid choice, as long as it’s an educated choice. Personally, I’m trusting that BDS knows more about boycotts and corporate politics than I do; the least I can do is stop going to McDonalds.
If you want to avoid those restaurants but don’t want to give up your fast food fix, have no fear. There are still plenty of options in Albion that aren’t being boycotted. Within two miles of campus we’ve got Arby’s, Taco Bell, KFC and Hungry Howie’s. Arby’s is the closest you’ll get to the likes of Burger King and McDonald’s; I know it’s not the same, but they do have comparable prices and meal options. As for pizza, I don’t know why anyone would be going to Pizza Hut in the first place when they could be going to Hungry Howie’s. I also don’t know why you would get Papa John’s or Domino’s, since you’d have to go out to Jackson or Marshall. Hungry Howie’s is your best friend right now (as it should always be).
Along with those non-genocide-funding food chains, there are plenty of local Albion restaurants that are worth your coin. Franchises like those listed previously are familiar and cheap, but supporting local businesses is always a good thing, especially if you’re not sure about which big corporations are good to support.
Three of my favorite restaurants in town are Galazio, Lopez Taco House and Foundry Bakehouse and Deli. They might not become your everyday go-to’s, but if you want to treat yourself to a good meal or just get off campus, they’re great options. Conveniently, they’re all within a 15-minute walk from campus. You can even order food for pickup from all of these restaurants if you don’t feel like dining in.
Galazio serves homemade Greek food and hosts public events like speakeasies and brunches. Lopez Taco House has very tasty Mexican food; I for one am a big fan of their enchiladas. Foundry Bakehouse and Deli is a great spot for breakfast, lunch or writing your article for the Pleiad while enjoying a pumpkin donut.
Times of crisis are confusing, especially when misinformation is rampant and you can scroll through every opinion under the sun without finding consensus. It’s easy to want to help, but hard to actually do it. I appreciate you reading this article, and I think you should go read plenty more. Boycotting a couple of fast food chains is definitely something you can do, but it’s still a small thing. If you want to do more, there are also petitions, charities and protests going on as well as politicians to call and family members to talk to.
Anything is better than nothing, but I encourage you to do as much as you can.