McDonald’s Malaysia takes pro-Palestine group to court over boycott calls

Franchise operator is seeking $1.3 million in damages for alleged defamation

A McDonald's restaurant in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo: Sopa Images
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The Malaysian franchisee of McDonald’s has taken a local pro-Palestinian group to court, seeking $1.3 million in damages for alleged defamation.

BDS Malaysia has been calling for Malaysians to boycott western brands, including McDonald’s, KFC and Zara, which it alleges are “complicit with Israeli atrocities towards Palestinians”.

The activist group is part of the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement launched by civil society organisations in 2005 to pressure Israel over its policies towards Palestinians.

The Malaysian McDonald's franchisee on Friday said its civil suit was aimed at protecting “our rights and interests in accordance with the law”.

It added: “While we understand and respect that the act of boycotting is an individual decision, we believe that it should be based on facts and not false allegations.”

The lawsuit seeks 6 million ringgit ($1.3 million) in damages for alleged defamation, according to a copy of the legal document.

In a post on the social media platform X on Friday, BDS Malaysia denied the allegations.

On Saturday, the pressure group intensified calls for Malaysians to boycott western brands.

McDonald's Corporation chief executive Chris Kempczinski acknowledged in a New Year message that boycotts sparked by the company's perceived support for Israel was having a “meaningful” impact on its business.

He blamed the backlash on "misinformation".

McDonald's last November rejected “inaccurate reports” over its position on the Gaza war, after one of its franchises in Israel claimed to have offered thousands of free meals to Israeli soldiers.

The global fast food chain shared a statement on the social media pages of several of its operators in the Middle East – including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait – affirming that it was “not funding or supporting any governments in this conflict”.

Israel launched an offensive in Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel, which left about 1,140 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures. The Palestinian militants also took about 250 people hostage, more than half of whom remain inside the war zone, some of them believed dead.

The war has claimed more than 22,700 lives in Gaza, most of them women and children, and left more than 58,000 injured, according to the latest tolls released by Gaza's health ministry on Saturday.

Updated: January 06, 2024, 12:59 PM