Saturday, 15 June. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

Last month, a Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in Ramallah as if to support the claim that the Palestinian economy is indeed statehood-ready. Around the same time as Mahmoud Abbas handed over the Palestinian application for statehood recognition to the UN Security Council, Palestine got its first major fast food franchise.

Already, Ramallah has several cafes and fast food restaurants copying, if not the food, at least the names of large American chains. Cafes with satirical names like “Stars and Bucks” are much appreciated among Palestinians as well as internationals in Ramallah. This month, however, the new KFC has been the place to be.

The excitement in the faces of some of my Palestinian friends when they asked me if I wanted to come to KFC with them cannot be mistaken. Neither can the long lines of people outside of Ramallah’s new hotspot, eagerly waiting to get a bite of the fabled fried chicken. Looking at the range of fast food Ramallah has to offer, I have a hard time believing that another fried chicken joint would be the culinary talk of the month. But when I discovered that the place is so popular it even has its own facebook page with more than 3,600 members, my doubts were expelled.

At a time when the Palestinians are trying to prove that their economy can stand on its own, a KFC may be a tangible piece of evidence that they are right. One might say that the opening of a global franchise is a sign of a healthy economy. Major brand names like KFC and Pizza Hut (coming to Ramallah soon) would not open shop in an area without believing in its economic stability and especially in the return of a sizeable profit from its society.

The Palestinian economy has – in spite of recent signs of instability including fund cuts from major donors (read: the US) – been deemed stable and ready for the establishment of a Palestinian state. And, as the new KFC franchise points to, it is not just the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that have faith in the stability of the Palestinian economy. Profit-seeking capitalists ready to invest in Palestine obviously feel the same.

In Palestine, people are angry and disappointed when it comes to the United States’ policies towards the Palestinians. Not only has the US confirmed their plan to veto a possible Security Council vote on the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the UN, the US Congress recently decided to cut all aid to the Palestinians for the rest of the year. But even as the United States’ legislative arm tears up the Palestinian Authority’s monthly cheques, the citizens of Ramallah are licking their fingers after eating in one of the most all-American fast food chains.

But is the opening of a KFC in Ramallah really a step towards statehood? It might be a sign of a more or less stable economy and a people with the means to create a profit for the local branch, but the fact that American chains are opening should not alone lead to the idea that a country is ready for statehood. If Americanization of a society is what it takes, I am starting to wonder whether the Palestinians should reconsider the kind of state they want to live in. Luckily, opening a KFC, MacDonald’s or Burger King does not seem to be on the list of demands for a state to be recognized at the UN. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or even Benjamin Netanyahu probably couldn’t care less whether the Palestinians get their coffee from Starbucks or Stars and Bucks - as long as it is not a sovereign Palestinian joint in the heart of Jerusalem.

Julie Holm is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

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