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De-coca-colonizing Egypt: globalization, decolonization, and the Egyptian boycott of Coca-Cola, 1966–68*

  • Maurice Jr M. Labelle (a1)

Abstract

In the middle of the twentieth century, many Egyptians welcomed the arrival of Coca-Cola.Yet the Egyptian embrace of Coke drastically declined when, in April 1966, the firm consented to the opening of a bottling franchise in Israel. This article explores the de-coca-colonization of post-independence Egypt. The Coca-Cola Company's reluctance to revoke its commercial extension into Israel obliged the Egyptian government to reject the multinational corporation's discourse of development, view Coke as a political threat, vote in favour of an Arab League boycott, and ultimately close its borders to Coca-Cola. By doing so, the Cairo government did not reject either cultural globalization or economic modernization, nor was it disconnected from the global flow of capital, people, ideas, and goods, but it chose to concentrate its support on one of these processes: decolonization.

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I would like to thank Petra Goedde, Waleed Hazbun, Sean Byrnes, Lema Chemini, Jake Hogan, and the editors of the Journal of Global History, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their help as I wrote this article. I would also like to thank Salim Yaqub for suggesting the title.

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1 For more information on the global expansion of Coca-Cola, see Allen, Frederick, Secret formula: how brilliant marketing and relentless salesmanship made Coca-Cola the best-known product in the world, New York: Harper, 1994;

Foster, Robert J., Coca-globalization: following soft drinks from New York to New Guinea, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008;

Pendergrast, Mark, For God, country, and Coca-Cola: the definitive history of the great American soft drink and the company that makes it, New York: Basic Books, 2000.

2 Pendergrast, For God, country, and Coca-Cola, pp. 233, 243.

3 National Archives and Research Administration II, United States, College Park, Maryland (henceforth NARA II), 59, 1013, Algiers to State, 22 April 1966.

4 For a sample of the most recent scholarship on ‘modernity’ in contemporary Middle East history and US–Middle East relations, see Citino, Nathan, ‘The “crush” of ideologies: the United States, the Arab world, and Cold War modernization’, Cold War History, 12, 1, 2011, pp. 89110;

Jacobs, Matthew J., Imagining the Middle East: the building of an American foreign policy, 1918–1967, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011;

Lockman, Zachary, Contending visions of the Middle East: the history and politics of orientalism, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004;

Watenpaugh, Keith David, Being modern in the Middle East: revolution, nationalism, colonialism, and the Arab middle class, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

5 For more on the history of the United States and modernization, see Ekbladh, David, The great American mission: modernization and the construction of an American world order, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010;

Engerman, David and Unger, Corinna, ‘Introduction: towards a global history of modernization’, Diplomatic History, 33, 3, 2009, pp. 375386;

David Engerman et al., eds. Staging growth: modernization, development, and the global cold war, Amhert, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003;

Latham, Michael, The right kind of revolution: modernization, development, and U.S. foreign policy from the Cold War to the present, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011.

6 ‘The sun never sets on Cacoola’, Time, 55, 20, 15 May 1950.

7 For more on US policy toward the Arab–Israeli conflict during the late 1950s and early 1960s, see Spiegel, Steven L., The other Arab–Israeli conflict: making America's Middle East policy, from Truman to Reagan, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

8 Foster, Coca-globalization, p. 177

Flutsty, Steven, De-coca-colonization: making the globe from inside out, New York: Routledge, 2004.

9 A good example of this is the recent scholarship on the interplay between the global Cold War and decolonization. See Irwin, Ryan, ‘A wind of change? White redoubt and the postcolonial moment, 1960–1963’, Diplomatic History, 33, 5, 2009, pp. 897926;

Labelle, Maurice Jr, ‘A new age of empire? Arab “anti-Americanism”, U.S. intervention, and the Lebanese civil war of 1958’, International History Review, 35, 1, 2013, pp. 4269;

Parker, Jason, Brother's keeper: the United States, race, and empire in the British Caribbean, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

10 For a historical explanation of globalization, see Osterhammel, Jürgen and Petersson, Niels, Globalization: a short history, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

11 For the latest scholarship on the role of the United States in the globalization of popular culture, see Grazia, Victoria de, Irresistible empire: America's advance through twentieth-century Europe, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005;

Hoganson, Kristine, ‘Stuff it: domestic consumption and the Americanization of the world paradigm’, Diplomatic History, 30, 4, 2006, pp. 571594;

McKevitt, Andrew, ‘“You are not alone!”: anime and the globalizing of America’, Diplomatic History, 34, 5, 2010, pp. 893921.

12 For more on globalization and the myth of Arab exceptionalism, see Hazbun, Waleed, ‘The Middle East through the lens of critical geopolitics: globalization, terrorism, and the Iraq war’, in Michael Bonine, Abbas Amanat, and Michael Ezekiel Gasper, eds., Is there a Middle East? The evolution of a geopolitical concept, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011, pp. 207230;

Kedourie, Elie, Democracy and Arab political culture, London: Frank Cass, 1994.

13 For more on this, see Shechter, Relli, Smoking, culture, and economy in the Middle East: the Egyptian tobacco market 1850–2000, London: I.B. Tauris, 2006.

14 According to Duara, Prasenjit, ‘Introduction: the decolonization of Asia and Africa in the twentieth century’, in Prasenjit Duara, ed., Decolonization: perspectives from now and then, New York: Routledge, 2004, p. 2, decolonization is not strictly confined to obtaining national independence and ending direct imperial rule; rather, it also ‘refers both to the anti-imperialist political movement and to an emancipatory ideology which sought or claimed to liberate the nation and humanity itself’.

15 For more on economic nationalism in Egypt, see Tignor, Robert, State, private enterprise, and economic change in Egypt, 1918–1952, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984;

Vitalis, Robert, When capitalists collide: business conflict and the end of empire in Egypt, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995.

16 Eckes, Alfred and Zeiler, Thomas, Globalization and the American century, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 134.

17 Cited in Pendergrast, For God, country, and Coca-Cola, p. 216. See also ‘The sun never sets on Cacoola’;

Kuisel, Richard, Seducing the French: the dilemma of Americanization, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993, p. 53; and

Pendergrast, For God, country, and Coca-Cola, pp. 188, 199–206, 238, 249.

18 Kuisel, Seducing the French, pp. 52–69. For a fascinating discussion of the distinction between globalization and Americanization, see

Iriye, Akira, ‘Globalization as Americanization?’, in Bruce Mazlish, Nayan Chanda, and Kenneth Weisbrode, eds., The paradox of a global USA, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007, pp. 3148.

19 For more on the history of the Arab League boycott of Israel, see Chill, Dan, The Arab boycott of Israel: economic aggression and world reaction, New York: Praeger, 1976;

Feiler, Gil, From boycott to economic cooperation: the political economy of the Arab boycott of Israel, London: Frank Cass, 1998.

20 Pendergrast, For God, country, and Coca-Cola, p. 238;

Vitalis, When capitalists collide, pp. 108–109, 144;

Wahba, Mourad Magdi, The role of the state in the Egyptian economy: 1945–1981, Reading: Ithaca Press, 1994, pp. 3335;

Kuisel, Seducing the French, p. 53.

21 Pendergrast, For God, country, and Coca-Cola, p. 251;

Wahba, Role of the state, pp. 45–47;

Tignor, State, private enterprise, and economic change, pp. 179, 221, 228–9;

Capparelli, Stephanie, The real Pepsi challenge: how one pioneering company broke color barriers in 1940s American business, New York: Free Press, 2008, p. 236;

Vitalis, When capitalists collide, pp. 202, 207.

22 ‘Note on Arab boycott’, in Anita L. P. Burdett, ed., The Arab League: British documentary sources, 1943–1963, vol. 5, London: Archive Editions, 1995, p. 270.

23 ‘Copy of proclamation’, in Muhammad Khalil, ed., The Arab states and the Arab League: a documentary record, vol. 2, Beirut: Khayats, 1962, p. 161.

24 Burdett, Arab League, vol. 5, pp. 278, 687; ‘Aims of the Arab boycott’, in Israel's Foreign Relations, vols 1–2: 1947–1974, http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/MFADocuments/Yearbook1/Pages/5%20Aims%20of%20the%20Arab%20boycott.aspx (consulted 16 October 2013).

25 Burdett, Arab League, vol. 5, p. 683;

Feiler, From boycott to economic cooperation, pp. 29–39; NARA II, 59, 3480, Damascus to State, 19 December 1963.

26 ‘Interview with Mr. Ahmad Mahjub’, 19 July 1964, in Khalidi, Walid, ed., Arab political documents, 1964, Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 1964, pp. 310311; NARA II, 59, 1015, Beirut to State, 24 July 1964; Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, Texas (henceforth LBJL), Papers of Lyndon Baines Johnson, National Security Files, 11, CIA memorandum, 1 August 1967; NARA II, 59, 1015, Tel Aviv to State, 20 February 1965; ‘The answer to the Arab boycott: excerpts from an article by Deputy Prime Minister Eban: Israel year book 1966’, Israel's Foreign Relations, http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/MFADocuments/Yearbook1/Pages/8%20The%20answer%20to%20the%20Arab%20boycott-%20excerpts%20from%20an.aspx (consulted 16 October 2013).

27 LBJL, Papers of Lyndon Baines Johnson, 4, Abraham A. Grunhut to President, 3 June 1965; ibid., National Security File, 104, Benjamin Read to Walt Rostow, 22 February 1967; NARA II, 59, 1015, Damascus to State, 15 October 1965. For more on US–Israel relations and the formation of a transnational Zionist network, see Hahn, Peter, Caught in the Middle East: U.S. policy toward the Arab–Israeli conflict, 1945–1961, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

28 Emory University, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Atlanta, Georgia (henceforth EU, MARBL) 48, 14, Dose Schary, ‘The chairman's newsletter’, n.d.; ‘Coca-Cola is accused of honoring boycott by Arabs of Israel’, Wall Street Journal, 8 April 1966, p. 16; untitled article, ADL Bulletin, May 1966, pp. 4–5.

29 EU, MARBL, Robert Winship Woodruff Papers (henceforth RWWP), 48, 14, Harold I. Kahen to Chairman of Board, 8 April 1966; RWPP, 48, 14, ‘Nathan's may hold the Coke to draw some in Israel’, New York World-Telegram and Sun, 9 April 1966; ‘State JWV to join national body in any action against Coca-Cola’, Hartford Courant, 11 April 1966, p. 36; ‘Coke embargoed a day at hospital’, New York Times, 12 April 1966, p. 41.

30 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Memorandum’, n.d.; RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Letter to all bottlers of Coca-Cola’, 14 April 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, ‘Memorandum of conversation’, 25 April 1966; EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Statement by James A. Farley’, New York Times, 12 April 1966.

31 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Notes’, 15 April 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Telephone between Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Rothberg’, 15 April 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Statement by Tom Deegan’, 15 April 1966; Daniel Milton Ladd to Director of FBI, ‘Abraham Feinberg, aka Abraham Fineberg’, 17 April 1952, Israel Lobby Archive, http://www.irmep.org/ila/feinberg/ (consulted 22 October 2012); EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Statement by James A. Farley’, n.d.; RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Statement by Abraham Feinberg’, 15 April 1966.

32 Arabs’ boycott is counteracted’, New York Times, 16 April 1966, p. 8; EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Coke defies “boycott”, okays Israeli plant’, Atlanta Constitution, 16 April 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Israeli Coke: Arabs couldn't bottle it up’, New York Post, 17 April 1966; ‘Coca-Cola shifts attitude, defies boycott by Arabs’, American Israelite, 21 April 1966, p. 1.

33 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, Benjamin Oehlert to J. Paul Austin, 22 April 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, Oehlert to Lee Talley, 25 April 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, Oehlert to Austin, 28 April 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, Oehlert to Austin, 29 April 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, Jidda to State, 4 May 1966; EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, Oehlert to Austin, 5 May 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, Dhahran to State, 15 May 1966.

34 ‘Coca Cola is warned by the boycott bureau’, Arab World, 12 May 1966, p. 12.

35 For more on Egypt's foreign exchange problem, see Hopwood, Derek, Egypt: politics and society, 1945–90, New York: Routledge, 1993;

Ikram, Khalil, The Egyptian economy, 1952–2000, New York: Routledge, 2006;

Waterbury, John, The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: the political economy of two regimes, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

36 Arab boycott’, Arab World, 20 May 1966, p. 11; ‘Al Ahram reveals new U.S.–Israel arms deal’, Arab World, 23 May 1966, p. 10; ‘Deal draws hostile reaction’, Arab World, 23 May 1966, p. 11. For more on the Skyhawk sale, see Zach Levey, ‘The United States’ Skyhawk sale to Israel, 1966: strategic exigencies of an arms deal’, Diplomatic History, 28, 2, 2004, pp. 255–76.

37 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Vernon Hoppers to Robert Woodruff, 27 June 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 28 June 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 30 June 1966.

38 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, Talley to Austin and Oehlert, 25 May 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Israel Boycott Office to Manager, 6 June 1966.

39 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 14, Hoppers to Talley, 20 May 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, Oehlert to Austin, 27 May 1966; RWWP, 48, 14, ‘Presentation: Egypt’, n.d.; RWWP, 48, 15, Oehlert to Austin, 2 June 1966. For more on Arab tourism and globalization, see Hazbun, Waleed, Beaches, ruins, resorts: the politics of tourism in the Arab world, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

40 Allen, Secret formula, p. 1.

41 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 30 June 1966.

42 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Alexander Makinsky to Talley, 9 July 1966, emphasis in original.

43 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Austin to Woodruff, 12 July 1966.

44 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Austin to Talley, 12 July 1966.

45 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 19 July 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Makinsky to Talley, 19 July 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 20 July 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Oehlert to Bahti, 25 July 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 27 July 1966; Wahba, Role of the state, pp. 134, 137.

46 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 26 August 1966; Abdalla, Ahmed, The student movement and national politics in Egypt, 1923–1973, London: Al Saqi Books, 1985, p. 140. For more on the influence of Heikal's Al Ahram in Nasser's Egypt, see

Munir K. Nasser, Press, politics, and power: Egypt's Heikal and Al-Ahram, Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1979.

47 NARA II, 59, 1013, Cairo to State, 22 September 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, Cairo to State, 24 September 1966; EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Oehlert to Mustafa Kamel, 3 October 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, Cairo to State, 29 September 1966.

48 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Oehlert to Kamel, 31 October 1966.

49 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Oehlert to Austin, 6 October 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to All bottlers in Arab countries, 10 October 1966.

50 Al Ahram, 7 October 1966, p. 5; Al Ahram, 18 October 1966, p. 5.

51 Al Ahram, 21 October 1966, p. 5; Al Ahram, 6 November 1966, p. 3; Al Ahram, 11 November 1966, p. 5.

52 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 48, 15, Hoppers to Talley, 17 October 1966; RWWP, 48, 15, Oehlert to Austin, 25 October 1966.

53 ‘Coca-Cola headed for Arab blacklist’, Arab World, 1 November 1966, p. 1; ‘Boycott’, Arab World, 15 November 1966, p. 1; NARA II, 59, 1013, Beirut to State, 14 November 1966; ‘Arab boycott conference in Kuwait’, Arab World, 15 November 1966, p. 11; ‘Arab boycott’, Arab World, 16 November 1966, p. 1. For more on the Israeli raid on Samu, see Bunch, Clea Lutz, ‘Strike at Samu: Jordan, Israel, the United States, and the origins of the Six Day War’, Diplomatic History, 32, 1, 2008, pp. 5576;

Shemesh, Moshe, ‘The IDF raid on Samu: the turning point in Jordan's relations with Israel and the West Bank Palestinians’, Israel Studies, 7, 1, 2002, pp. 139167.

54 NARA II, 59, 927, Beirut to State, 20 February 1967.

55 ‘UAR prepares for conversion of Ford assembly plant, Coca-Cola into other possible uses’, Arab World, 25 November 1966, p. 9.

56 NARA II, 59, 1013, ‘Memorandum of conversation’, 28 November 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, Dean Rusk to Cairo, 28 November 1966; NARA II, 59, 1013, Cairo to State, 30 November 1966.

57 NARA II, 59, 927, Damascus to State, 29 February 1967; NARA II, 59, 927, Cairo to State, 16 March 1967.

58 NARA II, 59, 927, Cairo to State, 22 April 1967; NARA II, 59, 927, Cairo to State, 5 May 1967; NARA II, 59, 927, Cairo to State, 7 April 1967; NARA II, 59, 927, Rusk to Cairo, 27 April 1967.

59 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 49, 1, Hoppers to Talley, 30 August 1967; RWWP, 49, 1, Hoppers to CCEC Office, 6 September 1967; NARA II, 59, 1613, Cairo to State, 21 September 1967.

60 EU, MARBL, RWWP, 49, 1, ‘Arab boycott fails to stop Coca-Cola; plant set in Tel Aviv’, New York Times, 24 September 1967; ‘Arab boycott conference is opened in Cairo’, Arab World, 4 October 1967, p. 5; NARA II, 59, 1613, Beirut to State, 21 February 1968.

61 NARA II, 59, 1613, Beirut to State, 15 May 1968; NARA II, 59, 1613, Dhahran to State, 26 June 1968; NARA II, 59, 1613, Jidda to State, 30 June 1968; NARA II, 59, 1613; Kuwait to State, 25 July 1968; NARA II, 59, 1613, Cairo to State, 28 June 1968; NARA II, 59, 1613, Cairo to State, 3 July 1968; NARA II, 59, 1613, Kuwait to State, 7 July 1968.

62 For more on the Arab Middle East and the globalization of popular culture, see Hammond, Andrew, Popular culture in the Arab world: arts, politics, and the media, Cairo: American University of Cairo Press, 2007;

Kraidy, Marwan, Reality television and Arab politics: contentions in public life, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009;

LeVine, Mark, Heavy metal Islam: rock, resistance, and the soul of Islam, New York: Broadway, 2008.

63 Capparelli, Real Pepsi challenge, p. 236;

Isdell, Neville and Beasley, David, Inside Coca-Cola: a CEO's life story of building the world's most popular brand, New York: St Martin's Press, 2011, pp. 113114;

Koptich, Kristin, A poetics of political economy in Egypt, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1999, p. 43.

* I would like to thank Petra Goedde, Waleed Hazbun, Sean Byrnes, Lema Chemini, Jake Hogan, and the editors of the Journal of Global History, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their help as I wrote this article. I would also like to thank Salim Yaqub for suggesting the title.

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