How did a story of a person that delivers KFC fried chickens in Gaza – via border tunnels with the permission of Hamas – go viral worldwide last week? It was a small story and represents a few dozen orders a week, yet it was top news in The New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, Haaretz, Time, AlQuds/UK, The Guardian, the Xinhua Chinese News Agency, and more, as well as fodder (or slaw) for late-night TV hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel in the USA.
On the surface, the simple story was about an entrepreneur – Mohammed Madani (or some stories interview director Khalil Efrangi) of Al Yamama delivery service – who arranges for KFC deliveries from El-Arish in Egypt’s Sinai, meets the smuggled deliveries in one of the hundreds of border tunnels, and delivers the no-longer-hot foods in Gaza for a $6 margin. The price of a 12 piece bucket of chicken parts is $27. By comparison, a falafel in pita with hummus, tahini, and salads in Gaza is about 80 cents. Their facebook page is here
Below the surface it is a brilliant PR placement that attempts to show deprivation in Gaza to a mass audience by showing it in terms of something everyone can connect to: a shockingly deprived life without KFC or other branded quick-service foods. Or is it a way to show that Gazans are not as food insecure as reported if there are segments of society that can order in KFC meals from Egypt.
A deeper look at the story is more confusing. Many stories blame Israel for the lack of KFC in Gaza. The intellectual blogger, Perez Hilton, blamed “Israel-led food embargoes.” But the stories are about issues on the Egyptian border, not Israel. Some stories discussed deprivation in Gaza, yet show nice flats, deliverymen in yamama (Arabic for pigeon or dove) uniforms, and Gaza residents with incomes high enough to work and study abroad and to import the breaded and fried poultry to their homes. Others mention Gazan food scarcity, while others write about extremely high obesity rates among Palestinians there.
One gets the feeling that if KFC was in Gaza, Israel will be blamed for poisoning Palestinains with wasteful, diabetes inducing calories. if KFC is not in Gaza, Israel (but not Egypt) will be blamed for embargoes on seven herbs and spices and poultry.
One story did mention that there are franchised KFC’s in the West Bank and that the Palestinian franchisee expects to open at least one KFC location in Gaza, but he was having difficulties with the Hamas-led bureaucracy.
Note: The photo from Agence France Press AFP/Getty is peculiar since the tunnel smuggler seems to be holding an actual KFC bucket in his right hand. But all other items are bagged in plastic for the smuggling journey. The photographer – I am assuming – staged the photo to make for a “better” picture.