Artifact

Unreal Thing

Credit: ReutersCredit: Reuters

Hate the U.S.? Live in Europe? Then drink Mecca-Cola, a new brand aimed at slaking Europe's anti-American thirst. The label may look like Coca-Cola's, but it urges, "Don't Drink Stupidly, Drink with Commitment!" French-Tunisian founder Tawfiq Mathlouthi has promised to donate 10 cents of every Mecca euro to Palestinian "charities."

Established in Paris last fall, Mecca claimed in December to have orders for 2 million bottles. One customer explained that he'd switched from Coke because the American drink represents "all the things that are most diabolical in history."

Although Mecca has positioned itself against Coke, it's actually competing for the anti-American niche market against an established Iranian off-brand, Zam Zam (named for the city of Mecca's sacred spring). Zam Zam is now expanding into Europe, and Mecca's tack, it appears, is to beat Zam Zam by directly evoking Coca-Cola (note the "classic" flavor).

Europe's cola war is an echo of the Mideast's anti-Coke fervor. Of course, boycotts there are less a threat to American shareholders than they are to regional franchises. Ramallah's locally-owned Coke plant, with some 400 jobs, is among the few still-profitable Palestinian businesses. Its threatened employees surely have their own idea of what it is to drink stupidly.

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