The right word would be hazukashi, Japanese for “shame,” which means admitting you were wrong and making sincere amends. Sad to say, but “avoir honte,” being ashamed in French, too often means denial of the misdeed compounded by fresh lies.
Monsieur Stéphane Richard, CEO of France’s sterling telecommunications outfit Orange™, did a song and dance in Cairo. The international cad told his Cairo buddies he had a pressing urge to cut ties with that damned Israeli so-called partner. As if Partner (that’s actually the name of the Israeli company) were a lowdown Chinese knockoff of Orange™. If Monsieur Orange did not actually pinpoint the “colonies,” all the better: the boycotters consider all of Israel a colony. His deep desire to maintain good relations with Egypt and the whole wide Arab world was reason enough to ditch Partner.
Bizarre. A 21st century telecommunications magnate thinks you can spit on the Jews in Cairo, straighten your tie, and come home to Paris with a hypocritical smile and no harm done. Some will say he didn’t spit at anyone, didn’t talk about Jews, just a cumbersome Israeli partner, nothing to get into a tizzy about and anyway a brief communiqué from management should whisk away any misunderstanding.
If, like me, you have been enduring the misdeeds of the Orange™ site for years you won’t be surprised to find a pack of lies there: Monsieur Richard was speaking about commercial relations. Nothing to do with politics. Strictly business! Is that so? Shortly after signing a ten-year extension to the contract with the Israeli firm, the CEO of Orange™— the French government is a 25% shareholder—rescinds it without prior notification. If he doesn’t cut the ties then & there with a slash of a sabre, he tells his Egyptian confidantes, it’s because it will cost tens of millions in penalties. Me too, monsieur l’orange, I’d like to cancel my plan hic e nunc. But it will cost me a pretty penny.
So I am writing as a paid in full Orange™ customer, sucked dry for years when your precursors, France Telecom, enjoying a quasi-monopoly, billed phone calls as if they were gold.
As a good businessman bursting with humanism you kick a Jew, excuse me, an Israeli in the pants to please the Egyptians, thinking they are buddy-buddy with France’s antiquepolitique arabe. Would they be happy to know about the wildcat Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators stomping down the boulevard Beaumarchais, waving their yellow flag with the folded-thumb hand?
Then you come back to Paris and deny the meaning of your declaration (teacher, teacher, I didn’t say “dirty Jew” I said “how do you djew?” I swear, I swear on my mother’s head), trying to make us believe you were simply announcing, in front of your Cairo buddies, the new orange policy of terminating this kind of non-subsidiary partnership. In fact there isn’t any “this kind” because Partner, which happens to have donned the Orange™ label before it was acquired by France Telecom, is one of a kind. This explains the interest of pleasing the BDSsers, plus a sourpuss French ambassador to the U.S., and a grand Guigoungol botoxed ex-minister, by announcing your new commercial strategy there, in the land of themisrahim. Of course you didn’t mention your Israeli high-tech investments — Orange Business Services and Viaccess-Orca. Hazukashi !
As for my buddies, they’ve all taken their business to free. If I remain orange it’s because I am faithful by nature and certainly not in return for satisfaction guaranteed. By the way, there has been a lot of talk about the high suicide rate among your employees but no one is worrying about the suicidal thoughts provoked in customers that have to communicate with them! The router that goes into cardiac arrest; the so-called technical service that has you crawling for an hour from outlet to outlet, unplug, plug, unplug, plug, and start again, backward and forward; stations that disappear; the image that freezes every thirty seconds, especially when there are elections, hostage situations, or earthquakes. A young lady who earns a halfway decent living chez vous mused on the possibility that these thermal shocks were due to interference from an electrical appliance, maybe the washing machine. She didn’t dare suggest it was the fault of the Israelis that colonize the Arabs over there and even here in France.
I stayed with Orange™ because I like the contact with intelligent beings that can decrypt the gobbledygook of your supposedly high-tech site. Except for the désimlockage. Pure torture. Is it because I wanted to slip my Israeli SIM card, Orange™ what’s more, in the mobile phone I bought from you two years ago and replaced last month?
I was running around like a laboratory rat from the boutique here to the agency there. You have to see the technical service. In fact, no, it wasn’t their department, but the young man at the reception thought he could fix it. After puttering around for three quarters of an hour he informed me, out of good hearted wishfulness I suppose, that the telephone was already désimlocké.
My doubts persisted. I went back to the boutique where they told me to phone the technical service. What’s the use? The automated voice that would drive a bonze crazy sends me back to where I began: désimlockage online. The guys in the boutique tell me the trick is to just hang on after the automatic message. An advisor will reply. It works. I pour out my sad story: I followed instructions, got a code by email, fed the code to my phone that kept burping: “code error.” The advisor confirms my doubts: the telephone is resolutelysimlocké. She asks if the IEMI in the email message is correct. I think so but I’m in an Orange™ boutique, not in front of my computer. And it’s almost 7 PM. She says she’ll verify for me. I should just give her my password.
I’m like the innocent bloke who’s been grilled by the police for 24 hours! But I don’t confess.
I can’t give you my password.
She takes it as a personal insult: In that case there’s nothing else I can do for you.
Let’s skip over the next ten chapters of this waking nightmare. In the last analysis I had to send the telephone to a company in the provinces to get it désimlocké. Is it the manufacturer’s fault (Nokia)? Perhaps. But you’re the dealer, monsieur Richard. Maybe Nokia doesn’t like doing business with a service provider in France and the colonies? Yes, you call them DOM-TOM, but what does the international community think? And how about your apartheid banlieues?
That’s not all. A quick survey of reliable sources confirms that I am not the only one who has fallen prey to fraudulent companies that are allowed to bilk me, via Orange™, for junk services we never or accidentally subscribed to. You helped yourself right from the cookie jar, my bank account, and the shady guys got their share. I kept putting off the task of checking my bill in detail because I get seasick trying to navigate your site. One day I finally zeroed in on my mysteriously inflated bill and discovered a line labeled internet +.
And there, monsieur Richard, after what you did in Cairo, I hold you personally responsible. Who else would have instructed your personnel to tell me I must have charged purchases on my Orange™ account? You know, train tickets, clothes, restaurants…. Can you believe it? Instead of using one of my [several] credit cards I said, “Send the bill to Orange™.” Who ever heard of such a thing?
A few more weeks of intensive research to finally discover that we clicked on a site one day thinking the man of the house could watch a rugby match online. Hah! No match, no images, nothing but chatter, even more idiotic than the sports commentators on our state-owned networks. Thanks but no thanks! A few hundred euros down the line we finally managed to cancel the internet+ “subscription.” We asked, begged, pleaded and demanded to be reimbursed for these never- provided non-services but the oranges wouldn’t give us a penny. Too late, sucker.
Let’s leave it at that. The list of your turpitudes is too long. You’ll bore my readers. I’ll leave you, Orange™, I’ll leave you when I am good and ready and before you try to squeeze me for legal fees when Partner sues you. Don’t count on me, don’t count on Partner, don’t count on Israel to commit suicide. It’s not our culture.
All things considered, it was a refreshing experience. Both public and private Israeli bodies reacted with dignity. No apologies, none of that personally, I’m for the two-state solution, not even one of those humanitarian copouts— but the Palestinians too benefit from the service provided in the colonies. On the French side, the foreign affairs minister himself repeated the government’s firm opposition to anything faintly resembling a boycott. Stéphane Richard, against the ropes, cried on the shoulder of BFM TV’s heartfelt journalist Ruth Elkrief. His lower lip trembling, he lamented: That anyone might think, the very idea, who could believe, me, an antisemite, woe is me, I am hurt, wounded to the depths of my being.
And off he went, on the path of repentance. Did he pray at the kotel ? Lachon hara in Cairo, salamalekoums in Jerusalem and, needless to say, indifference of global media. No background, no follow up. The juicy part for them was the chance to claim “the colonies are illegal in the eyes of international law.”
No background, no follow up, and no ringing bells when by chance, during the trial of the creepy Forsane Alizza[i] gang, it was revealed that a man named Dawoud, gainfully employed by Orange™, delivered bushels and crates of information to the Islamists on potential targets — a handy file on Jews & infidels ready for use when the “horsemen of pride” would decide to strike.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Times of Israel.