I was visiting Ramallah to see where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered. Once there, I found it is also home to a large public memorial where Yasir Arafat is entombed, so I saw that too.
An aspect of life in Israel and the West Bank that quickly becomes apparent to an observant visitor – and goes a long way to explaining the intractability of the hostility – is that a huge gulf of distrust and venom separates many Jews and Arabs there. The enmity operates at the level of individual residents, not just at the level of government and military, rendering the prospect of peace that much more remote. Residents on both sides of the conflict are primed to think the worst of the other, and frequently do.
I asked what was behind the name “Stars & Bucks” and was told that the café’s owner was fully justified in exploiting the Starbucks brand because “everyone knows that Howard Schultz, the American millionaire Jew who owns Starbucks, is a Zionist who funds Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Is there a better conspiracy theory tip-off than “everyone knows?” I was surprised that the young Arab man I spoke with even knew the name of the Seattle businessman who leads Starbucks, let alone to be told – in a tone that brooked no doubt – that Schultz is a great enemy of Arabs and Palestine.
I did a little digging when I returned to Seattle and found that in 2006 Schultz was the victim of a hoax whereby he purportedly wrote a letter supporting Zionist causes. Schultz wrote no such letter and its real author later admitted it was a hoax. However the Internet does not require facts. The hoax-letter went viral, deepening the enmity between Arabs and Jews in that part of the world and eventually influencing the name of this café.
That afternoon I did enter the café and had an Americano. The coffee was good.
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