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After McD's, Coca-Cola MY next to face boycott claims over Middle East conflict

After McD's, Coca-Cola MY next to face boycott claims over Middle East conflict

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Shortly after McDonald's Malaysia faced boycott claims for allegedly channelling aid to Israel, Coca-Cola Malaysia has come under the spotlight as a result of misinformation circulation online concerning its commitment in the Middle East.

"We have heard some individuals calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola on the back of false information and rumours circulating on social media and a lack of understanding of our presence in and commitment to the Middle East," the brand said. The company clarified that even though Coca-Cola is a global brand, the drinks are processed and bottled locally for Malaysians by Malaysians. It added that having operated in the country for more than 85 years, its priority has always been to offer social assistance to Malaysians, among other efforts.

Coca-Cola said it is "deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict" between Palestine and Israel and the impact on individuals in the region. It also clarified that it does not support or take sides in any religion-related conflict or any country involved. "The very first people to be hurt by boycott calls are our local employees, followed by the thousands of retailers, distributors and suppliers throughout our supply chain in Malaysia who rely upon us for their livelihoods," the brand said.

A Facebook video posted by non-governmental organisation Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) shows individuals removing cans and bottles of Coke from a fridge in a store, thereafter putting up a sign that says "Coca-Cola is not for sale here". They also removed and covered Coca-Cola labels seen on the fridge. The individuals also called for the boycott of Coca-Cola, claiming that the brand has "supported the [Israel regime] for many years" and following this association, it does not want the beverage to be sold in Malaysia. "Coca-Cola might need to shut down its billion-dollar investment. [Other] companies we are against are Starbucks, HP, and Puma," the individuals said in the video, calling for members of the media and consumers to join the boycott.

According to PPIM's website, it was founded in June 1997 by a group of activists who wish to change the landscape of Islamic consumption. PPIM added that although article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution has recognised Islam as the official religion, there are "still many factors that affect the importance of Islam, especially in Halal and syariah issues".

Separately, McDonald's Malaysia denied that it is offering aid to Israel, calling the claims a "lie and slanderous". The statement came this week amidst WhatsApp messages calling for the boycott of the brand. Azmir Jaafar, MD and local operating partner of McDonald's Malaysia, said the boycott is "unfounded". He explained that Gerbang Alaf Restaurants, which operates the McDonald's business in Malaysia, has been fully taken over by Saudi Arabia's Reza Group with a local business partner since 2017, in which the company's equity is owned by Muslims.

The company also faced boycott claims in 2017 for allegedly supporting Israel. Azmir also previously said the accusations levelled against McDonald's for allegedly channelling funds to Israel were untrue, a blatant lie and slanderous. It also alerted the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to take action.

Separately, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that a possibility of a cease-fire between Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel could come as early as Friday. WSJ added that Egyptian officials have made progress in their negotiations with Hamas's leadership and the Israeli military has also "privately conceded" that it is "nearing the completion of its objectives". The current conflict between Israel and Hamas is reportedly one of the "most intense" conflicts since the most recent of three wars in 2014, WSJ said.

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