“Don’t drink stupid, drink engaged!”..

AP Worldstream




Dateline: PARIS

A campaign in Arab countries to boycott American goods over U.S. backing for Israel has taken a flavor of its own in France, where an imitation of Coca-Cola is being marketed not so much as a thirst quencher but a political statement.


Mecca-Cola soft drink first hit store shelves in France for the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Nov. 6. Ten percent of the proceeds are earmarked for “Palestinian causes” aimed at improving the lives of Palestinian children, the company said on its Web site.


“Don’t drink stupid, drink engaged!” trumpets the Mecca-Cola Web site. The site also features pictures of young Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli tanks, masked youths wielding slingshots and woman in a veil grappling with Israel forces.


Tawfik Mathlouthi, the creator of Mecca-Cola, said more than 1.2 million bottles have been sold. Manufactured in France, Mecca-Cola is also sold in Britain and Germany, he said, and other markets are on the horizon.


The campaign follows an unofficial boycott of U.S. products in the Arab Middle East over retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. Mathlouthi insists his actions do not stem from anti-Americanism.


“Frankly, I love the United States, but I hate American policy,” he said.


The 1.5-liter bottles _ with their white swoosh lettering and red background _ resemble Coca-Cola, although Mathlouthi said his product is not designed to compete with any specific cola brand.


An Arab League boycott has been in place since 1951, banning companies that do business with Israel from dealing with Arab nations. Calls for following the boycott have recently stepped up because of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli violence.