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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 14:27 GMT
Saudi burgers to help Palestinians
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner
The Saudi branches of McDonalds, the giant US fast food chain, have launched a campaign to help the Palestinians and stop people boycotting their produce.
The Saudi franchise holders have announced this week, that during the month of Ramadan, they will be donating 26 cents from each meal bought to Palestinian children's hospitals.
The underlying message is, "buy a burger and help a Palestinian child".
In the current climate of anti-American anger in the Arab world, it is a politically canny marketing move, as much as a well-meaning act of charity.
Since the latest Palestinian uprising began two months ago, dozens of McDonalds branches in Saudi Arabia have reportedly suffered from a popular boycott.
Saudis are outraged at America's perceived support for Israel against the Palestinians.
Muslim preachers have urged people not to buy any product associated with America.
But the General Manager for the McDonalds franchise holder in Jeddah, Abderahhman Ali Reda, told the BBC that in the case of McDonalds in Saudi Arabia, such a boycott would hurt his Saudi employees more than any US interests.
He criticised what he called the hypocrisy of some anti-western zealots, saying they railed against US products while continuing to drive American cars.
The McDonalds campaign has the support of one of Saudi Arabia's many royal princes.
Prince Mishal Bin Khalid, who heads one of the licence holders, has been quoted as saying that McDonalds' US headquarters has been informed.
He expects the campaign to raise over $100,000 during the next four weeks.
Public sympathy for the Palestinian cause is running high in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, spurred on by graphic satellite TV footage of lightly armed Palestinians battling Israeli troops.
The Saudi government has opened up its hospitals to Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israelis.
The Interior Minister has reportedly promised each one treated in his country a gift of US$4000.
Last week the British Ambassador, Derek Plumbly, sensing the political climate, made a point of visiting Palestinian patients in a Saudi hospital.
Britons have recently been the target of two car-bombs in the capital, Riyadh.
No one has yet claimed responsibility, but the attacks are thought to be related to the current anti-western feelings amongst many Saudis.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Muslim clerics have been drawing up lists of US goods that they would like Muslims to boycott.
US-made cars, cosmetics and computers have all been included in the lists, which are accompanied by political messages.
One such list distributed in Qatar and the UAE during the last few days carries the message: "Each dollar spent buying an American product is transformed into a bullet to kill our brothers in Palestine... so US restaurants will lose millions of dollars if boycotted".
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