Remember the old advert for Orange mobile phones? “The future’s bright. The future’s orange“. Well, that’s all changed as of earlier today as yet another antisemitic boycott of Israel took effect when the CEO of Orange, the French telecom giant, announced it was dropping its partnership with its Israeli subsidiary, Partner.
The story came to public attention only yesterday: (emphases added):
French mobile communications giant Orange officially announced Thursday that it would sever its ties with its Israeli subsidiary Partner, a day after the company’s CEO provoked a firestorm by saying he would like to pull out of the country but feared penalties.
The company denied that the move was politically motivated, despite claims in Israel that the company’s CEO was looking to join a boycott of Israel.
A statement from the company said that it doesn’t want to maintain its brand presence “in countries in which it is not, or is no longer, an operator.”
It clarified that it “does not engage in any kind of political debate under any circumstance.”
Suuure it does. That’s why the CEO announced his wish to boycott Israel in an Arab country. That’s why he didn’t contact his Israeli subsidiary first to inform them or to discuss the matter.
The announcement came a day after Orange CEO Stephane Richard said his company intended to withdraw the company brand from Israel as soon as possible, but that the move would take time.
Well, it did take time. A whole day. That’s time. Just not an awful lot of it.
He said that he would like to end cooperation with Partner “tomorrow,” but that to do so would incur a “huge risk” of penalties.
“Our intention is to withdraw from Israel. It will take time” but “for sure we will do it,” he said. “I am ready to do this tomorrow morning… but without exposing Orange to huge risks.”
“I know that it is a sensitive issue here in Egypt, but not only in Egypt … We want to be one of the trustful partners of all Arab countries.”
And that is the nub of it all. It is the old Arab boycott, pure and simple.
Ynet confirms this suspicion in its report on the intense Egyptian campaign against Orange for its ties with Israel. Yes, this is Egypt – our peace partner. The country which under its new President al-Sisi is more pro-Israel than any previous regime:
Even before the CEO of Orange’s statement in Cairo declaring his intent to cut ties with Israel, and the official confirmation of termination of said ties, there were Egyptians who pressured the company – and possibly led to Stephane Richard to make the comments.
A campaign titled “Boycott Mobinil” was established on Egyptian social networks, blaming the company for having worked with Israel, and even supporting IDF units who served during operation Protective Edge.
In a letter that was sent by the campaign to Orange and Mobinil, the companies where asked to cancel the “embarrassing” contract that was signed, extending the cooperation with Israel’s Partner until 2015. “Until Orange takes the moral step and cancels this shameful contract, the popular Egyptian campaign to boycott Mobinil will continue and intensify
I am in full agreement with the owner of Partner, media mogul Haim Saban (with whom I agree on very little at all), who accused Orange of succumbing to antisemitic pressure:
The owner of the Israeli company franchising the name of mobile giant Orange threatened legal action against the company Thursday, after it said it would cut ties with its Israeli licensee.
Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban, who holds a controlling share of Partner Communications, also accused the French company of buckling to pressure from anti-Semitic groups.
“Partner is an Israeli firm in every sense. We signed a contract with them and we are considering our steps in the wake of their statement,” Saban told Israeli news outlet Ynet.
Orange “conceded to pressures from all sorts of anti-Semitic bodies,” he told Channel 2. “In each generation they rise up to destroy us — we are strong and we will be united and fight them.”
The mogul, who was headed to Las Vegas for a meeting on combating Israel boycott efforts with billionaire Sheldon Adelson, also expressed disappointment that the French government, which is a stakeholder in Orange, didn’t condemn the Orange CEO’s statement. The French government “de facto owns Orange,” he said. “The French government should speak out and dissociate itself from the head of Orange in France.”
He also faulted the Israeli government for not setting up a hierarchy, and funding it properly, to battle efforts to boycott and delegitimize Israel.
That’s another thing with which I agree with Saban – the Israeli government has left it much too late and done much too little, with almost no funding, to combat the scourge of delegitimization and BDS.
And there’s yet more that I am in agreement with Saban (I never thought I’d see the day!):
Saban appealed to Israelis to not hand Orange a victory by canceling their service and hurting Partner’s bottom line, but instead to rally around the firm.
Close to 400 employees of Israel’s Partner mobile service provider demonstrated Thursday against Orange, covering the Orange logo atop the company building with a large Israeli flag.
Partner CEO Haim Romano threatened legal action against Richard in interviews Thursday, saying that his company decried Richard’s statement, which he said could hurt his company’s bottom line and raise the ire of Israeli subscribers.
Education Minister and former Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who has accumulated some experience in fighting BDS, delegitimization and lawfare against Israel, also called on Israelis not to take revenge against the wrong target. In a facebook post (free translation by myself) he said:
Do not boycott Partner in Israel. They are the victim, not the attacker.
– Partner is a completely Israeli mobile company, which employs about 3,500 workers in Israel.
– All its infrastructure: towers, customer service, all – belong to her alone.
– Many years ago it had contracted with international Orange, only regarding the brand. In other words, for the right to use the Orange brand, it pays Orange International. Apart from the brand, there is no further contact.
– Cancellation of subscriptions to Partner is just punishing ourselves. This is not correct.
– As I understand it, the Israeli company, Partner, is the one affected by Orange and it will have to consider its steps (sue Orange for damages? Sever the connection and replace a brand?).
– It is time that the Israeli government went on the attack against those who boycott her. I am working on the matter. With wise action, one can boycott the boycotters, stop the situation where Israel can be attacked without cost.
The important bottom line: do not punish Partner, the company, because of a statement made by CEO Orange France.
Orange should be dealt with separately.
Bennett’s idea of boycotting the boycotters is an excellent one and has been instituted in some states in the US. (as I wrote back in April). Some more states are joining in the anti-boycott action now, including Illinois and possibly New York, with even more legislation that would make it illegal for state funds to invest in companies which boycott Israel. There is much more at Legal Insurrection where Prof. Jacobson has covered the BDS endeavour extensively.
UPDATE: I just read Prof. Eugene Kontorovich’s excellent article in the Washington Post where he demolishes the French ambassador’s spurious arguments that a) the settlements are illegal; and b) it is illegal to do business with business that operate in the settlements; The French may very well have shot themselves in the foot on this Orange boycott as it relates back to the Illinois anti-boycott law:
Even if settlements are illegal, there is no ban on business in the territories, or with settlers. Certainly there is no tertiary obligation to not do business with businesses that have some tangential business in such territory. All this is demonstrated extensively in my new paper, some of which I tried to share with Amb. Araud.
The Orange incident, and the Ambassador’s legal claim, are also bad news for a number of French companies, like the oil giant Total, which is active in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara against the vociferous protests of the indigenous Sawahari people. (There are many other examples, like Michelin in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.) The French government has never criticized any of these controversial activities in any way. But if the Ambassador’s legal claim is right, he has provided the basis for war crimes prosecutions of France’s leading executives.
What the French apparently want is, to paraphrase Stalin, international law for one country. Ok. But don’t call it international. And don’t call it law.
Orange’s legal advice has been bad not just on the international legal front. The CEO apparently is unaware that his statement could make it impossible for at least one major state’s pension funds to have holdings in his firm. Illinois’ pensions have recently had about $1.3 million in Orange shares (it sold them in June for unrelated reasons), and as more states pass anti-BDS laws, Orange will have to seek more of its capital in the places it has built up “trust.”
Read it all!
Another anti-boycott initiative has emerged in recent days, yet it remains rather mysterious. The Canary Mission has decided to give the hard left a taste of its own medicine – and they don’t like it one bit. Raheem Kassam explains:
There’s a website called “Canary Mission.” I don’t know who’s behind it. Nor, it seems, does anyone else. But I think it’s a great exercise in turning the tables on anti-Israel activists who have been ‘shaming’ people online for years.
Canary Mission says its aim is to “expose individuals and groups that are anti-Freedom, anti-American and anti-Semitic in order to protect the public and our democratic values.”
It seeks to do this by maintaining an online database, complete with pictures, biographies, Facebook posts, videos, and quotes from anti-Israel activists who are seemingly apoplectic that their public behaviour has become, well, even more public than it was before.
Well whoever is running this new website – and I’m not making judgments either way as to their integrity or standing – is doing nothing wrong as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I wonder if they’d consider expanding their focus to the United Kingdom.
There is a crying need for a UK branch of Canary Mission. They could start with the British National Union of Students which voted to boycott Israel:
The UK’s National Union of Students passed a motion Tuesday to join worldwide efforts to boycott Israel over what it called Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. The motion explicitly aligns the union with the Palestinian-instigated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
The NUC’s Executive Council passed motion 518, dubbed “Justice for Palestine,” with 19 members voting in favor, 12 against and three abstaining.
The motion also called on the British Parliament to stop arms sales to Israel.
The NUC is the UK’s umbrella student organization for some 600 higher education institutions representing 7 million students.
The motion “condemns Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza,” and calls on students to “co-ordinate a nationwide student day of action to commemorate UN Palestine Solidarity Day on 29 November,” the Jewish Chronicle reported.
“Justice for Palestine” also included amendment 518a, a provision proposed by the student union of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London formally aligning the student organization with the BDS initiative. After a heated debate, 19 Executive Council members voted in favor of the provision, 14 against and one abstained.
The students’ vote was mere empty posturing, as the article continues:
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the decision had “little practical implications, since this body has already voiced anti-Israel opinions in the past.”
In the wake of the vote, the British Government restated its firm opposition to calls to boycott Israel.
The universities themselves also rejected the students’ boycott decision:
The representative body of universities in the United Kingdom on Wednesday strongly rejected the academic boycott of Israel announced on Tuesday by Britain’s National Union of Students.
Universities U.K., which counts all British universities among its 133 members, said in a statement that it “firmly opposes academic boycotts on the basis that they are inimical to academic freedom, including the freedom of academics to collaborate with other academics.”
“Given the reported perception in Israel that U.K. universities support an academic boycott,” the statement continued, “the board of Universities U.K. wishes to confirm its previously stated position that it is firmly opposed to any academic boycott of Israeli universities.
“The board also confirms its view that all universities must uphold, in the interests of free expression of ideas, the fundamental right of academics to question national and international policies.”
The final word should go to the head of the Jewish students union:
The vote, which was put forward by the student union at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, was criticized by both the Union of Jewish Students and a number of leading NUS members.
“Anti-Semitism is like a virus, it mutates and infects everything it touches. It’s mutated into BDS and NUS is infected,” NUS vice-president Joe Vinson tweeted after the vote.
He should get in touch with Canary Mission. Maybe they can bring some order to the antisemitic filth infecting British academia.
And then Canary Mission should place a phone call to Orange.