In early June 2015 the new government of Israeli PM Netanyahu took on the international Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) action by French cell phone giant Orange. Orange was seeking to withdraw its name from an Israeli company, Partner Communications, Ltd. The Los Angeles Times reported this latest BDS kerfuffle involving Israel:
Orange said Thursday that it “ultimately” planned to pull its brand name from Israel, giving a boost to an international boycott movement while enraging the Israeli government and the local franchisee.
In a news release from Paris, the company said it wished to “ultimately end this brand license agreement.” It insisted it was making a business decision, saying it did not want to maintain the brand’s presence in countries where the French company does not actually operate, as is the case in Israel.
The statement capped a tense 24 hours after Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard at a Cairo news conference Wednesday said that the company would love to terminate “tomorrow” the contract granting the Israeli cellular company Partner Communications Ltd. use of the Orange brand. He added, however, that the legalities would have to be sorted out or the French company would incur staggering expenses.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded swiftly saying:
Although it is for the president of the Orange group to determine the commercial strategy of the company, France is firmly opposed to a boycott of Israel.
Also, France and the European Union have a consistent policy on settlement-building that is known to all.
This occurred in less than 48 hours after Orange CEO Stephane Richard’s meeting in Egypt with BDS campaign representatives. He said he “would to ultimately cut ties with Israeli Partner Communications, Ltd. (Partner) because of cell phone use in the disputed territories where Palestinians allege human rights abuses occur. Richard admitted he couldn’t do that as the French government owns 25% of the cell phone company which has a 10 year contract with Partner, allowing it to use the name “Orange.” Richard was pummeled for his statement in comments by Prime Minister Netanyahu and from Israeli American Hollywood mogul, Haim Saban, who holds a significant stake in Partner. Netanyahu called on France to repudiate BDS and what he deemed the “miserable actions” of Orange. Saban said on Israel’s Channel 2 that Richard “succumbs” to antisemitic pressure groups and ought to be fired.
L’affaire Orange ended just as abruptly as it began with a phone conversation between Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and cell phone CEO Richard. The Jerusalem Post reported this exchange posted by Shalom on his Facebook page:
I spoke with the CEO of Orange, Stephane Richard, and I told him that the people of Israel are angered and hurt by his statements. I told him how it saddened me that he had turned into a tool in the struggle against Israel and that he had lent a hand to the assault by Israel-haters who are trying to harm Israel not just militarily but economically. Richard apologized for his remarks that he made during a conference in Egypt and told me that he is a friend of Israel. He claimed that his comments were not properly understood and that he spoke only about the economic aspect [of his decision]. He apologized on behalf of himself and the company for the remarks, and he said that they condemn all forms of boycotts.
As the L.A. Times reported the original statement by Orange CEO Richard caught Israeli officials flat footed. That prompted Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely to hold an emergency meeting which resulted in a letter sent to Richard saying: “I appeal to you to refrain from being a party to the industry of lies which unfairly targets Israel.”
Still concerning the Israeli Foreign Ministry was the recent adoption of a BDS resolution voted by the UK Student Union and the recognition of a Hamas–related ‘Palestinian Return’ NGO in a vote by Turkey and Iran at the UN. There was also the spike reported by the ADL in BDS resolution votes at US universities seeking divestment of endowment holdings of securities of Israeli companies and securities of US companies doing business with Israel. The UK Student Union vote prompted Israeli PM Netanyahu during welcoming remarks for visiting Canadian Foreign Minister Robert Nicholson to say:
They boycott Israel but they refuse to boycott ISIS. [ISIS] burns people alive in cages and the national student groups in Britain refuse to boycott ISIS and have boycotted Israel. That tells you everything you want to know about the BDS movement. They condemn Israel and do not condemn ISIS; they condemn themselves.
The Anti-Israel BDS campaign formally began in 2005 with formation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee. The international Palestinian BDS project is modeled on the South African Anti-Apartheid sanctions campaign of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It was an outgrowth of the UN Human Rights Commission Durban I Conference against racism in 2000 prompted by Palestinian and so-called ant-racist anti-Israel NGOs. The International Palestinian BDS initiative endeavored to depict Israel as allegedly violating Palestinian human rights as an occupying power in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel’s kerfuffle with French cell phone giant Orange is an example of a long overdue strategy articulated in a new book by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Deligitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism. Dr. Gerstenfeld is the former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a recognized expert on European and Global Antisemitism. His latest work on the rise of the “new Antisemitism” is a masterful compendium of the origins and contemporary sources of Jew hatred, delegitimizing and demonizing Israel and world Jewry, as well as a strategy for Israel to combat this political war against the Jewish State. In our 2013 interview with Dr. Gerstenfeld, “Anti-Israelism is Anti-Semitism,” in response to a question on what Israel and world Jewry could do to combat this, he replied:
In post-modern times, there is no single remedy against widespread hate-mongering. The government of Israel has to set up a much more comprehensive infrastructure to fight this war and it must properly fund it. One must develop a detailed concept of how this is going to be done.
In The War of a Million Cuts, Gerstenfeld proposes, the equivalent of the US WWII Office of War Information, funded at upwards of $250 million by Israel. He notes the compelling rationale:
There is no Israeli organizational structure that is capable of overseeing the battlefield, let alone one that combats incitement abroad as well as anti-Semitism in a systematic way. This is despite the fact that the war of a million cuts has been raging for so long.
Such an overview of the battlefield would involve understanding who Israel’s most dangerous hate-mongering enemies are, what their various modes of activity are, how their operations interrelate, what impact they have, and so on. Such an agency would also assess and develop the best ways of combating the aggressors and guiding Israel’s allies on how they can help fight the enemy. No other country is confronted with a propaganda onslaught of such magnitude.
With Israel’s premier expertise in cybersecurity, that might entail development of a’ big data’ approach to target and fine tune messaging to combat Anti-Israel propaganda. Illustrative of that was the development by both the IDF and ad hoc social media groups at Israeli universities to rebut pro-Hamas and Palestinian disinformation through adroit use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube videos in the midst of Operation Defensive Edge. In the US colleagues involved with the National Security Task Force of the Lisa Benson show held a combined Facebook Twitter Rally in the midst of last summer’s Hamas rocket and tunnel war that at its peak was sending more than 600 messages per hour. That effort caught the attention of several US Congressional Representatives and even a reporter from Al Jazeera America using the hashtag “#defundsHamas.”
Carolyn Glick in a Jerusalem Post op-ed on the Orange and more recent BDS attacks against Israel noted the daunting task ahead in the expanding war against BDS:
Israel’s ability to defend itself and its citizens is constrained first and foremost by its shrinking capacity to defend itself diplomatically. Its enemies in the diplomatic arena have met with great success in their use of diplomatic condemnation and intimidation to force Israel to limit its military operations to the point where it is incapable of defeating its enemies outright.
The flagship of the diplomatic war against Israel is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Participants in the movement propagate and disseminate the libelous claim that Israel’s use of force in self-defense is inherently immoral and illegal. Over the years BDS activists’ assaults on Israel’s right to exist have become ever more shrill and radical. So, too, whereas just a few years ago their operations tended to be concentrated around military confrontations, today they are everyday occurrences. And their demands become greater and more openly anti-Semitic from week to week and day to day.
These latest BDS attacks against Israel aroused casino mogul and GOP campaign financier Sheldon Adelson. Following this episode, he called for an emergency meeting of likeminded anti-BDS colleagues at his flagship Casino in Las Vegas
On June 4, 2015, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina signed into law a model anti-BDS law for adoption by other states and possibly at the federal level through amendment of the existing 1977 Anti-Boycott legislation that bars participation of U.S. persons in boycotts, not sanctioned by the government. The blog Legal Insurrection reported:
[The new law prohibits[s] the state from doing business with firms or individuals who engage in a “boycott of a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade.”
The South Carolina bill was signed into law a few weeks after Illinois passed legislation prohibiting the state from investing its pension funds in businesses that boycott Israel. Shortly afterwards Prof. Jacobson [of Cornell Law School] reported that New York had started working on a bill similar to the Illinois bill.
According to a spokesman for the Israel Allies Foundation, “a bloc of sponsors across 18 states has already committed to introducing similar legislation in their next legislative cycle.” The Israel Allies Foundation is working on fighting BDS at the state level.
If adopted in other jurisdictions in the U.S. the South Carolina model might bring a halt to state university student associations passing anti-Israel divestment resolutions. It also might bring up short groups like J Street, the New Israel Fund and some Federations that have supported BDS proponents.
It may augur well that a colleague of Dr. Gerstenfield’s at the JCPA, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dr. Dore Gold, was appointed Director General at the Israeli Foreign Ministry along with Deputy Foreign Minister Ms. Hotovely. What could emerge from these events and Netanyahu government appointments just might be the political warfare agency suggested by Gerstenfeld to ultimately rein in the rampant Jew hatred in the world directed in an unceasing BDS campaign demonizing Israel.
In The War of a Million Cuts, Gerstenfeld examines in definitive detail the classical forms of Antisemitism from early Church, nativist European blood libel accusations to the sanguinary racist forms that originated in the Spanish inquisition. These later emerged in 19th Century France and Austria with Antisemitic motifs of dual loyalty accusations and motifs of global media and financial controls depicted in editorial cartoons by the figurative Jewish octopus often conveyed in Arab and Iranian propaganda in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Those motifs include those drawn from Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and pictorial dehumanization of Jews which ultimately led to Hitler’s final solution – murdering six million European Jewish men, women and children. As a child, Gerstenfeld was hidden with a Dutch Christian family during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands during WWII.
His latest book covers the re-emergence of Antisemitism in post-war Europe against the background of the creation of the third Jewish commonwealth, Israel and the Palestinian conflicts that triggered a new international Anti-Israel campaign. A campaign fostered in part by the growth of non-selective mass Muslim immigration into Europe and the West which brought with it Islamic Jew hatred drawn from foundational Qur’anic documents. Gerstenfeld portrays these common motifs and themes drawn from these ancient and contemporary sources and the means by which they are disseminated in print and electronic social media. Against this background, he highlights evidence from contemporary surveys exposing the depths of virulent Antisemitism in France, Holland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Sweden and the UK which threaten both domestic Jewish populations and Israelis. In addition to Palestinian and Islamic organizations and media, the new Antisemitism derives from anti-Israel positions of international mainstream Christian NGOs and churches, European extremist left and neo-fascist political parties, nominally friendly state leaders, biased Western media, academia and even self-hating Jews. Then there is Lawfare by the Palestinian Authority in international and even US courts directed at criminalizing Israel’s self defense and civil actions against accusations from corrupt Palestinian leaders. Despite the absence of an official Israeli political warfare agency Gerstenfeld commends NGOs, social media and academic groups in the US, EU and Israel that combat Anti-Israelism. Groups like Palestine Media Watch, NGO Monitor, CAMERA, StandWithUs and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East that monitor, disclose abuses and drawn attention to these developments arousing activism.
In his 2013 book, Demonizing Israel and the Jews Gerstenfeld developed the stunning estimate of 150 million Europeans who dislike Israel and Jews. This figure is based on survey responses to questions about Israel’s alleged “genocidal” behavior towards Palestinian Arabs conducted in major EU member countries.
How bad the level of global Antisemitism is reflected in a statistic that Dr. Gerstenfeld drew from the 2014 ADL Global 100 survey results. For every Jewish person in the world there are 700 Antisemites. That would make Antisemites the equivalent of the third largest country in the world with an estimated 1 billion people.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.