Alison Weissbrot
Oct 11, 2023

How brands are responding to the Israel-Gaza war

Global companies are suspending operations in Israel and asking employees to work from home as they express support for teams in the region and Jewish colleagues around the globe. The complexity of the situation leaves business leaders and marketers again walking a geopolitical tightrope.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Tensions in the Middle East erupted this weekend after Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israeli citizens, sparking a declaration of war from Israel’s government and an offensive on the Gaza Strip.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 900 Israelis and more than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the attacks, including at least 11 American citizens, CBS News reports. More than 100 Israelis have been taken hostage in Gaza, including women, children and elderly people. Meanwhile, more than 180,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes, per CNN.

As the fighting escalates, marketers and business leaders are faced with yet another challenge in carefully responding to a complex geopolitical situation steeped in deep-rooted conflict. 

As with the Russia-Ukraine war, many global companies have business interests, if not offices and teams, in Israel and are actively working to keep operations running in the country. Those that don't must address the conflict among staff, who likely hold a myriad of opinions and beliefs.

While political leaders such as President Biden have come out in full support of Israel, and business leaders have addressed the conflict in internal memos to staff, major corporations that are often quick to speak out on socio-political issues have largely remained silent.

That might be due to fatigue; 41% of Americans say businesses in general should take a stand on current events, down from 48% a year prior, per a Gallup and Bentley University poll covered by The Wall Street Journal. Fewer than 30% of respondents said brands should weigh in on international conflicts.

Some leaders, however, are speaking out. According to CNN, the Partnership for New York City, which represents more than 300 business leaders and companies in the city, as well as the Business Roundtable; a group of leading U.S. CEOs; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have condemned Hamas’ attacks. 

Campaign US has rounded up a list of brands by sector that have responded to the conflict. We will continuously update the story as (and if) more brands speak out.

Travel

As violence escalates in the region, major airlines have suspended flights in and out of Israel. In a LinkedIn post on Monday confirming Delta’s decision to do so through October 31, CEO Ed Bastian said he was “horrified to see the shocking videos and images over the weekend following the attack on Israel.” 

Meanwhile, cruise operators Royal Caribbean and Carnival have adjusted their scheduled itineraries to avoid Israeli ports.

Automakers

Pablo Di Si, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group North America, called the recent attacks on Israel “shocking and horrifying” in a LinkedIn post on Monday. He added that Volskwagen is a proud partner of the Anti-Defamation League. 

“Our thoughts are with the people of Israel who are facing terror and violence and our colleagues who have families impacted by this tragedy,” he wrote. 

Media

On Saturday, Steve Forbes, chairman and editor in chief of Forbes Media, posted a video on LinkedIn in response to the conflict that condemned Hamas’ attacks. 

“The free world is horrified by the massive terroristic invasion of Israel by Hamas this morning,” he said. “The brutality, the barbaric acts already being committed, the kidnappings underscore the nature of the enemy.” 



Technology

In the tech sector, Oracle has pledged a donation of $1 million to Magen David Adom, an organization that supports first responders in Israel, and is kicking off a campaign to encourage donations from its 150,000 staffers. CEO Safra Catz, who is Israeli, has publicly condemned the attacks.

Meanwhile, Intel CEO Pete Gelsinger sent a letter to employees on Sunday addressing the conflict and emphasizing its efforts to keep employees in the regions safe, according to CTechIntel is the largest private employer in Israel. 

“My heart goes out to all of our workers in Israel and to those with family and friends in the region,” Gelsinger wrote.

Nvidia, meanwhile, canceled an AI conference scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv next week, where CEO Jensen Huang was scheduled to speak. 

At Google, which has two offices and more than 2,000 employees in Israel, CEO Sundar Pichai sent an internal memo to employees on Saturday night denouncing the “terrible attacks on civilians in Israel” and addressing “the escalated conflict now underway.” The company has contacted all employees based in or traveling to the region as part of a safety check, according to 9to5Google

Pichai also said Google’s cybersecurity teams have identified fake accounts connected to Iran promoting anti-Israel content across its services and reiterated its commitment to ensuring its platforms provide authoritative information. 

“Our teams are working around the clock to ensure this, as well as to detect and remove graphically violent, hateful or terrorist content, or coordinated disinformation campaigns,” Pichai wrote.  

On Sunday, revised its policies for considering whether a post is “newsworthy” and should remain on the platform despite violating its rules, removing the requirement for a poster to have at least 10,000 followers. CEO Linda Yaccarino reposted a message from the company’s safety team explaining to users how to block sensitive content. She reiterated that X is “committed to giving people information as quickly as possible” and said “above all, we are hoping and praying for peace.”

Meanwhile, misinformation on the platform is skyrocketing and X owner Elon Musk recently threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League. 

Closer to home for the ad industry, on Monday, Lior Shvo, chief marketing officer at ad-tech firm Primisposted on LinkedIn a plea to “share the truth” in light of disinformation flooding social media about the conflict.

Financial services 

JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon was among the first business leaders to express his support for Israel on Sunday. Dimon told employees in the region, of which JPMorgan has around 250, to work from home for the “foreseeable future” in a memo to staff

“This past weekend’s attack on Israel and its people and the resulting war and bloodshed are a terrible tragedy,” he wrote. “We stand with our employees, their families and the people of Israel during this time of great suffering and loss.”

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon sent a similar memo to staff pledging support for Israel while instructing employees in the region to work from home. 

“All of us at Goldman Sachs are thinking of you and your families in the face of this shocking aggression directed at the people of Israel,” he wrote. “The dynamics in the Middle East have always been difficult and complex. But, these attacks are terrorism and violate our most fundamental of values.”

Morgan Stanley has also instructed employees in the region to work from home, and Bank of America has closed its offices in Tel Aviv. 

Fashion/Retail

American Eagle boldly replaced its flagship billboard in Times Square with an image of the Israeli flag this weekend. CMO Craig Brommers posted on LinkedIn about the decision on Monday.

Meanwhile, H&M has closed all of its stores in Israel and Zara has temporarily closed its 84 stores in the country.

Pharma

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly issued a statement saying that it is “closely monitoring the situation” and is taking necessary steps to ensure the safety of its staff while keeping operations in place to ensure people have access to its medications in the region. 

Bristol Meyer Squibb also said it is monitoring the situation and maintaining a supply of medicine for people in the region. 

 

Source:
Campaign US

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