Don't drink that 'Zionist' non-fat latte

Pro-Palestinian activists throughout the world have been staging protests outside branches of Starbucks, accusing the coffee-shop chain of supporting Israel and Zionism. In Beirut on Tuesday, protesters closed down the Starbucks in one West Beirut shopping district, and on Thursday, demonstrators took to the Starbucks in Beirut's posh Verdun neighborhood where they were met by riot police.
Starbucks protest like this one in west Beirut are popping up all over the world since Israel began Operation Cast Lead. Demonstrators accuse Starbucks of financial support of Israel. ©NOW Lebanon

BEIRUT, January 16, 2009 (MENASSAT) — “You sitting in there, I hope what you’re drinking turns into poison,” shouted a group of about 30 angry Keffiyeh-clad protesters behind the anti-riot fences placed outside a Starbucks branch in west Beirut on Thursday night.

Armed with Palestinian flags and signs denouncing Israel such as, "Thank you for supporting us! Army of IsraHELL," protesters called for a Lebanese boycott of Starbucks.

Demonstrators cheered as one rally-goer taped a drawing of the Starbucks logo with a Star of David over it, reading "Starbucks-Israel’s Biggest Fan," over a dark green umbrella in the café’s outdoor seating area.

Meanwhile, security and riot police blocked protesters and journalists from entering the coffee shop. Inside, only one or two people could be seen sipping on what protesters called  "Zionist coffee."

Flyers reading, "Starbucks supports Israel. Do You?" were handed out by activists to journalists and curious by-passers. 

Protesters of the anti-Starbucks campaign have accused Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, of being a close ally of Israel, saying that in 1998 he was granted the "The Israeli 50th Anniversary Tribute Award" from a "Zionist organization."

A protest statement read, “The award was granted for his services to the Zionist state in playing a key role in promoting the close alliance between the United States and Israel. His work as a propagandist for Israel has been praised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as being key to Israel’s long-term PR success.”

Starbucks denies Zionist links

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based coffee giant, speaking to AP denied the allegations of Starbucks supporting Israel, saying that the political standing of any of the chain’s employees does not affect the company’s policies.

A statement released by Starbucks earlier this month read:

“Rumors that Starbucks Coffee Company and its management support Israel are unequivocally false. Starbucks is a non-political organization and does not support political causes.... Further, the political preferences of a Starbucks partner [employee] at any level have absolutely no bearing on Starbucks company policies.”

But activists in Beirut remain suspicious of Starbucks’ political agenda.

Twenty-two year old Mohammad told MENASSAT he is convinced Starbucks is giving money to Israel.

“Starbucks is supporting the Israelis. I think the profit from these past two weeks is going to the Israeli army. I don’t get why Lebanon is supporting Starbucks,” he said.

Moreover, protesters called for a full boycott of American goods -  "Drinks, food, and smokes" - and denounced the Arab governments’ handling of the war on Gaza – especially the Egyptian authorities.

Thursday’s rally was not the first demonstration against Starbucks in Lebanon. So far at least two out of the country’s sixteen Starbucks shops have been visited by groups  of protesters.

On Tuesday, around 100 protesters closed down the Starbucks branch located in a bustling shopping street, Hamra, west Beirut.

The demonstrators shouted ‘Palestinians are thirsty, your cup is full of their blood,’ according to a report by the LA Times.

The group "Boycott Starbucks" has been set up on the popular social networking site Facebook.