KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - More than 2,000 Muslim restaurants in Malaysia will remove Coca-Cola from their menus as part of a boycott of American products in protest against Israel's bombardment of Gaza, officials said Wednesday.
American companies are being targeted becuase of the U.S. government's support of Israel, which is carrying out a military offensive on Gaza that is says is aimed at stopping rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled territory.
The nationwide boycott will be launched Friday by several Muslim groups after they seek God's blessings at Friday prayers, said Ma'mor Osman, secretary-general of the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association which is leading the campaign.
In addition to Coca-Cola, he said they have identified some 100 other products ranging from food to beauty and clothing such as Starbucks, Colgate, McDonald's and Maybelline.
Since the Israeli offensive began, nearly 600 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, have been killed and at least 2,500 people injured, according to U.N. and Palestinian officials. Eleven Israelis have also been killed.
Muslims in Malaysia and worldwide have held demonstrations against the Israeli action but Ma'mor said such protests are futile.
"A boycott is the best way for us to protest Zionist cruelty against the Palestinian people as consumers can weaken the economy of countries like Israel and its ally, the U.S.," he said.
"We urge everybody who loves peace and is against war to support our campaign. We must send a clear signal to Israel to stop the assaults in Gaza," he said.
Some 2,600 restaurants under the Association of Muslim Restaurant Operators will stop selling Coca-Cola from Friday, he added.
The move came after former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a strident critic of Israel, last week urged consumers and governments to boycott American products and the U.S. dollar.
Israel sent troops and tanks into Hamas-controlled Gaza on Saturday after a weeklong aerial bombardment, sparking outrage among Muslims worldwide.
Malaysia's government, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has denounced Israel's ground offensive as "an act of total war" which cannot be tolerated.
The United States has also been criticized for blocking approval of a U.N. Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.