“A French C.E.O.’s Remarks on Leaving Israel Incite a Furor”
The New York Times, June 5, 2015, p. A8
“A growing global pro-Palestinian movement to boycott Israel instantly created a national furor on Thursday after the top executive of Orange, a leading French telecommunications company, said he would withdraw from the Israeli market if he could. The Facebook page of an Israeli company, Partner Communications, which has a license to use the Orange brand, was filled with customer complaints demanding that it sever ties with Orange. The Israeli government expressed outrage, demanding an apology from Orange. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the French government to repudiate the ‘miserable statement.’ The Orange chief executive, Stéphane Richard, said Wednesday that were it not for the potential legal and financial penalties, he would leave the Israeli market ‘tomorrow morning.’ … The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is at an impasse, and the Palestinians have been gaining international support for recognition of their statehood in a campaign that bypasses the paralyzed negotiations with Israel. Put together with a new Israeli government dominated by right-wing and religious parties, many Israelis are now waking up to the possibility of what some politicians here have long warned of: a ‘diplomatic tsunami.’ … Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister responsible for coordinating the fight against the boycott movement, held an urgent meeting on Wednesday night with political and security officials. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, recently convened a meeting of university leaders to combat academic boycotts. … Mr. Netanyahu lashed out against the boycott movement on Sunday, denying that it had anything to do with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and saying that it instead had to do with Israel’s very existence, likening it to age-old anti-Semitic ‘libels.’ He has made similar remarks in several meetings with foreign leaders since.”
Quickie analysis: Perhaps an underlying cause of the hysterical rhetoric employed by Israeli leaders is that (a) they know better than to actually think the boycotts are not about Israel’s specific policies and (b) they have seen similar campaigns be effective against other apartheid states.