Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants to make it crystal clear that neither he nor his company funds Israel the IDF or the Israeli government. While the company’s management has made such statements before, Schultz saw fit to quash rumors that had been escalating, along with the conflict between Israel and Gaza, that it funds Israeli causes. The company denies that it gives any money to political or religious causes, although Schultz has openly supported gay marriage and has expressed opinions about gun control.
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Management wanted to further clarify that it has no stores in Israel, and that its relationship with the country ended in 2003. However, it seems that the closing of Starbucks’ locations prior to 2003 had more to do with business than political considerations; Israelis have their own successful coffee chains like Aroma and Cafe Hillel and are probably not in the mood to pay 5 bucks for a Frappucino. Even as a business decision that closed in 2003 may be spun as a political protest by some, the company has no qualms about having locations in Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon (Hezbollah really needs the caffeine), Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
The statement was released as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was heating up and there was talk that Starbucks should be a target. There were threats in a recent pro-Palestinian publication that if Starbucks buys Israeli company SodaStream, to compete with Keurig Green Mountain’s partnership with Coca-Cola, Starbucks would be the target of BDS. One wonders if Schultz is so cowed by even the allegation that at some point he might have donated to an Israeli cause that he may also back off from the potentially profitable purchase of SodaStream, which is a major employer of Palestinian Arabs. If he is too intimidated to buy SodaStream, it is possible that he will mainly be hurting himself and his company.