Muslims Flex Their Market Muscle

Starbucks, which has retail locations in Muslim countries including Lebanon, Oman and Malaysia, has been trying to refute these allegations. Shultz said in a statement: "My position has always been pro-peace and for the two nations to co-exist peacefully. I am deeply saddened by the current events in the Middle East."

Amid increased anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, local franchisers have found novel ways to show their allegiance to their community and not the home office.

In Saudi Arabia, some McDonald's license-holders promise to give 25 cents earned on every sandwich to the Al Quds Intifada Fund, which supports Palestinian children's hospitals treating casualties of the uprising.

And in Egypt last year, local McDonald's franchise holders faced with a devastating boycott responded by hiring the singer whose song "I Hate Israel" was adopted by the boycotters, to perform the jingle for its new McFalafel sandwich.

Seduction of the Best

The 19-country Arab League boycotted Israel and international firms that dealt with Israel for more than 40 years, until it ended amid peace overtures in the 1990s.

However, even Arabs admit the boycott had little effect — mainly because Arab countries bought few of Israel's exports in the first place.

And Tayeh admits that boycotts are no easier today.

As an example, he points to the two of the most popular cars in the Middle East today. Chevy Caprices and Suburbans are popular because because they're huge, bold, roomy and have a luxury appeal, he said.

The U.S exports around $20 billion to the Middle East annually.

"American firms have had much success in the region, there's the idea that American products are the best," he said.

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