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LEBANON: Rage against Starbucks over Gaza fighting

January 14, 2009 |  9:04 am

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“One cup of coffee equals a bullet,” was the main slogan that demonstrators in Beirut blurted out against the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

In the latest of a series of daily protests in Lebanon, pro-Palestinian activists unleashed their fury at a new target, Starbucks.

Around 100 of them caused one branch of the U.S. coffee shop chain to close its doors Tuesday evening on Hamra Street, Beirut's bustling main commercial corridor, local media said.

The protesters accused the chain of supporting the Israeli army. They urged the customers inside the coffee shop to boycott Starbucks coffee. They accused the company’s chairman and president, Howard Schultz, of donating money to Israel.

A spokeswoman for the Seattle-based corporation told the Associated Press that the accusations against Starbucks of supporting Israel were false, adding that the political preferences of any one of its employees -- whether the CEO or a clerk -- have no bearing on the company's policies.

A company statement released earlier this month said:

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."

That didn't stop the protesters. One pasted a Star of David over the green-and-white Starbucks logo on the window display.

Others, holding Palestinian flags, chanted, “Palestinians are thirsty, your cup is full of their blood,” according to the local Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

The employees at Starbucks closed the door of the coffee shop after helping customers leave. This morning, however, the coffee shop reopened as usual and customers were seen sitting inside.

Starbucks is a popular coffee chain in Lebanon with 16 branches around the country.

On the social networking website Facebook, many groups call for boycotting U.S. companies allegedly supporting Israel, such as McDonalds and Starbucks.

The newest group, “Boycott McDonalds and Starbucks for helping Israel kill innocent Gaza people,” started after the Israeli war in Gaza and boasts more than 1,000 members.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: A protester taped a Star of David on the logo at a Starbucks shop on Hamra Street in Beirut during a demonstration against Israel's ground attack on the Gaza Strip. Credit: Hussein Malla / Associated Press

P.S. Get news from Iran, Gaza, Israel and the rest of the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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