The claim that Starbucks released a watermelon mug in support of Palestinians is false. The mug, featuring a watermelon design, sparked controversy when it was misinterpreted as a nod to Palestinian support amidst the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, factual evidence reveals that the design has no connection to the war and was actually part of a summer collection released in select UK Starbucks locations in May 2023, months before the conflict began.
Watermelons have indeed become associated with the Palestinian cause due to their color resemblance to the Palestinian flag. This symbolism allows supporters to convey their solidarity without facing potential censorship on legal and social media platforms. Calls for a Starbucks boycott emerged in October 2023 following the company’s response to a pro-Palestinian social media post from its workers’ union, which led to legal disputes over copyright infringement.
Starbucks spokesperson Jaci Anderson clarified that the watermelon mug was not intended as a gesture of solidarity but was simply a seasonal merchandise item sold in select UK stores. Although the mug continued to be available after its initial release, it was only present in a few UK locations.
Evidence from various sources, including Starbucks UK’s social media posts, eBay listings, and TikTok videos, confirms that the mugs were being sold well before the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Additionally, fact-checking organizations such as USA TODAY, The Associated Press, Check Your Fact, and AFP Fact Check have debunked the claim.
Despite widespread dissemination of the false claim on platforms like Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter), Starbucks reiterated that the design was not meant to pander to any specific group. However, the misunderstanding underscores the complexities of interpreting symbolism in contentious geopolitical contexts.
In summary, the assertion that Starbucks released a watermelon mug in support of Palestinians is unequivocally false. The mug’s design predates the Israel-Hamas conflict and was part of a seasonal collection in UK Starbucks stores, with no intended political message.