Israeli flags hang over the Orange logo
Israeli flags hang over the Orange logoReuters

Hypocrisy in Orange?

The CEO of Orange Telecommunications declared intent last week to end ties with its franchise operator Partner in Israel, a move he claimed was a "business decision."

French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud later defended the move on Twitter as a means of upholding the Fourth Geneva Convention, which called Israel's presence in the regions liberated in 1967 "illegal" and added that it is "illegal to contribute in any way" to the "occupation" or these territories.

But an in-depth investigation launched after the public fallout between Stephane Richard, the Israeli company Partner, and most of the Israeli public and political system, reveals that Orange - which is partially owned by the French government - regularly operates in other zones of political conflict without as much as a peep of protest. 

The Kohelet Policy Forum, which studies the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, revealed in a report published on Army Radio Tuesday that Orange operates in numerous zones of international conflict. 

For example, a simple survey of the company website reveals that it operates, among other places, in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia which is formally part of Azerbaijan; and in Tuva and Kutuzov Island, two areas of dispute between Russia and China since the 1980s. 

Several European companies that are at least partially state-funded operate in Western Sahara and disputed areas of Cyprus as well. 

"France, like many other states, says that when there is an occupied territory or territory with settlers - other countries cannot do business there, it's against international law," Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Forum stated. When it comes to Israel they say - 'It's not because we do not like you, it's because it's against international law' - but when we examine their behavior in other areas that meet this description, we see no reference to international law in general." 

Kontorovich's report surfaces after Richard stated last week, "our intention is to withdraw from Israel. It will take time" but "for sure we will do it".

"I am ready to do this tomorrow morning... but without exposing Orange to huge risks."

Richard later backtracked, claiming that the decision was apolitical, despite a report from five non-governmental organizations and two unions in France asking Orange to withdraw from Israel due to its operating services in Judea and Samaria weeks before that statement - and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, the terror group behind the Palestinian Authority) publicly calling on the French government to intervene in Orange's practices in Israel in May.