'I Hate Israel' Singer Sues McDonald's For Canning His Ad

Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09pm EDT
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Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - A popular Egyptian singer, whose song "I Hate Israel" topped the local charts, plans to sue the McDonald's restaurant chain for canceling advertisements in which his voice is used.

The advertisements for McDonald's new McFalafel sandwich were canceled after Jewish groups in the U.S. complained about the singer's involvement in the ads. They accused the Shaaban Abdel Rahim of actively inciting hatred against Israel.

Rahim, whose song "I hate Israel" became an overnight success, reportedly asked his lawyer to sue McDonald's for 250,000 pounds (about $65,000) for breach of contract.

Abdel Rahim said his contract with the international fast food giant was for one year and it states that any breach by either side requires the violating party to pay that sum. He said the company knew that he sang, "I hate Israel" when it hired him.

"Since the company stopped the ad just one month after it started running, I'm eligible for compensation," Abdel Rahim was quoted as saying in the United Arab Emirates' daily Al Bayan.

"I never knew that McDonald's was a Jewish company, and even if they paid me millions, I would not work with them," Abdel Rahim said.

"How come I hate Israel and made an advertisement for a Jewish company? Thank God they've stopped it, because if they had continued I would've asked them to stop it and paid them the penalty," he added.

McDonald's headquarters in Chicago refused to reply to repeated telephone requests for a confirmation about the lawsuit or any information on the episode. The Egyptian headquarters for McDonald's in Cairo was also unavailable for comment.

But McDonald's international headquarters claimed that the decision to can Rahim was made by the local branch and had nothing to do with complaints by Jewish organizations.

The American Jewish Committee welcomed the cancellation of the ad in a press release on its website, which it said occurred after AJC brought the issue to the attention of McDonald's.

"Your expeditious response to our concerns is much appreciated," wrote Shulamit Bahat, acting executive director of the AJC, in a letter to McDonald's senior vice president Jack Daly.

"Thank you for moving so quickly to cancel the new Egypt ad campaign featuring a hateful singer," she wrote, according to the press release.

Anti-Defamation League spokeswoman in Jerusalem Laura Kam Issachoroff also confirmed that the ADL had gone to McDonald's about the ad.

Egypt, which was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, is well known for its particularly virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments expressed freely and regularly in the state run media and press.

Egypt opened its first two McDonald's restaurants in Cairo in 1994. As is its practice in various parts of the world to include local foods in its menu, the American fast food restaurant introduced McFalafel recently in Egypt.

A falafel is made from a spicy ground chick pea paste, rolled into balls and fried and then stuffed in a pocket pita with salad.

Fast-food politics

American fast food chains often must walk a fine line in the complicated and highly sensitive Middle East.

McDonald's came under some criticism last year when its Saudi Arabian franchise announced that during the Islamic month of Ramadan it would donate $.26 from each meal purchased in order to help Palestinian children injured in the Palestinian violence against Israel.

Two years ago, Burger King came under threat of boycotts in the U.S. and throughout the Middle East for opening a store in a large Israeli community outside Jerusalem, which is in the disputed territories.

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