Corporate America faces a new dilemma: how to respond to the Israel-Hamas war. In the initial outcry over the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas, more than 200 companies and organizations, including Google, Starbucks and the NBA, condemned the attacks. Yet as Israel’s aggression progresses, widespread calls for a pause grow, another response has emerged: silence.
While some companies have condemned the “cycle of violence”, others have gone quiet and discouraged employees from publicly participating in the war. Companies are in a difficult situation as passions and sympathy for Israel are at their peak amid the rising civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Companies face competing pressures – to stand up for the Palestinians and support Israel in the fight against terrorism and Hamas. In some cases, employees are pressuring companies to take sides through public campaigns, petitions, and boycotts.
The battle is the latest divisive situation for the companies, following culture-war issues like Walt Disney’s (ticker: DIS) stance against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and the marketing of Bud Light with a transgender activist. Furthermore, corporate reactions to this war are not just a domestic concern – they have the potential to impact employees, customers, and business around the world.
“Companies are struggling because people have very polarized, entrenched and personal opinions on this,” says Dave Fleet, head of global digital crisis at public-relations firm Edelman. “It’s very subtle,” he adds, and “companies have found that a unilateral situation has not been good.”
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