Jewish fury over Orange CEO’s Israel boycott revelation


Jews and pro-Israel activists across the globe have vowed to cancel their Orange contracts after the French telecoms giant’s CEO said he would boycott Israel if he had the chance.

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday, Stéphane Richard said he would end the brand’s relationship with Israel “tomorrow” if he could.

He said the company planned to withdraw Orange from Israel as soon as possible.

“I am ready to abandon this tomorrow morning but the point is that I want to secure the legal risk for the company. I want to terminate this, once again, but I don’t want to expose Orange to a level of risk and of penalties that could be really sizeable for the company,” he said.

The confession sparked outrage – with people taking to social media in protest under the #BoycottOrange hastag.

Israeli government officials also came together to condemn the announcement.

Yair Lapid, the chairman of Israel’s Yesh Atid party, described Mr Richard’s comment as having the “highest levels of chutzpah and hypocrisy”.

He added: “We will not accept Europeans’ smug moral lectures.”

In a letter to Mr Richard on Wednesday, Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, said: “I write to you out of deep concern at the reports of your comments earlier today concerning the possibility of a future withdrawal of the Orange brand from Israel.

“I must admit to have been taken aback by these reports which do not become a responsible global company such as Orange.”

He went on to “urge you to clarify the matter as soon as possible.

“I appeal to you to refrain from being party to the industry of lies which unfairly targets Israel”.

Mr Richard’s announcement came amid pressure from movements that call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.

Orange – in which the French government has a 25 per cent stake - currently licences the use of its name to Israeli company Partner, which is the second biggest mobile company in Israel.

Partner is partly-owned by Israeli businessman Haim Saban’s company – Saban Capital Group.

Egyptian-born Mr Saban said: “I'm proud to hold the controlling stake in Partner, which is an Israeli owned company that leases the Orange brand. Threats won't deter me and I will continue to work on behalf of Israel and lead the global struggle in support of Israel."

While some people vowed to boycott Orange in Israel – other activists have warned against the move, saying it would harm Partner rather than Orange.

Arieh Kovler, the former head of policy and research at the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Orange wants to cancel its deal with Orange Israel, a separate company. If you hurt Orange Israel you help Orange.”

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