Orange drops Israel affiliate following inspiring BDS campaign
French telecoms giant Orange has announced the termination of its franchise relationship with Israeli company Partner Communications, confirming the BDS movement’s announcement last year that this was likely to happen.
In June 2015, the Orange CEO stated his desire to end the relationship with Partner after campaigners in Egypt began to organise a mass boycott of Orange-owned operator Mobinil and after campaigners in France took action to shine a spotlight on Partner’s deep complicity in Israeli war crimes.
Partner provided telecommunication support, subscription fee waivers and entertainment services to Israeli soldiers during the summer 2014 genocidal war on Gaza. A statement signed by dozens of French organisations condemned Partner’ provision of services to illegal Israeli settlements.
The campaign pressuring Orange to cut its ties with Partner began in 2010. A broad range of unions and campaign groups in France, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt were all part of the six-year long campaign.
Guman Mussa, the Arab World campaigns officer with the the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broadest Palestinian coalition that leads the global BDS movement, said:
“This news is a significant success for the BDS movement and shows that international companies and investors are waking up to the fact that being linked to Israel’s regime of colonisation, occupation and apartheid is bad for business.”
“We congratulate and thank all of the activists and organisations involved in this inspiring 6 year international campaign.”
“Pressure shall continue until the termination agreement is fully implemented and we further urge Orange to end its complicity with Israeli violations of international law as quickly as is feasible.”
Abdulrahman Abou Salem, a member of BDS Egypt coalition of trade unions, political parties and campaign groups, said:
“The termination of Orange’s relationship with Partner is a significant victory for the BDS movement. Even if Orange claims that its decision is not related to the pressure of boycott campaigns that would be hard to believe, because just few months prior to announcing its intention to terminate this relationship with Partner, an announcement which followed campaign pressure, the parties had signed a 10-year term agreement.”
Abou Salem further added that: “Indeed, when threatened by the mass boycott which BDS Egypt called for against the 30-million-subscriber Orange subsidiary operating under the name Mobinil in Egypt, Orange had no choice but to realise that investing in occupation, profiteering from Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land and involvement in violations against Palestinian rights is a commercially bad investment.”
A report outlining Orange’s complicity was co-published by the CGT and Solidaires unions, French human rights organisations CCFD, Ligue des Droits de l’Homme and FIDH, the Association France-Palestine solidarité, and Palestinian organisation Al Haq.
Creative protest actions, gathering huge numbers of signatures on petitions, lobbying of Orange officials and the publication of articles in the mainstream media all helped to pile the pressure on Orange.
The trade union Solidaires and the Orange Sud PTT Federation, which represents Orange workers, have welcomed the end of Orange’s relationship with Partner.
Taoufiq Tahani, President of the Association France-Palestine solidarité, said:
“I welcome this announcement, which has finalized the agreement to sever ties between Partner and Orange. Their decision to end their relationship followed the mobilization, over several years, of numerous organizations committed to solidarity with Palestine.”
A spokesperson for BDS France said:
“This is undoubtedly the result of mobilizations in France and Egypt against this shameful agreement between Orange and Partner.”
“BDS France which, together with other partners, has waged this battle for years, celebrates this victory for ethics and for international law against a state that respects neither. We will continue to diligently follow this case until Orange ends all its engagement with Partner”
When the termination of the relationship is completed, the Orange Israel brand will no longer exist, nor will the familiar “Orange Shalom tune” that Israeli users hear when their call goes unanswered.
Orange is not be the first French company to exit the Israeli market under boycott pressure. Another French company, Veolia, was also involved in Israeli violations of international law and colonisation of Palestine, especially in occupied Jerusalem, but was compelled to end all its illegal operations in Israel in 2015 after losing billions of dollars in tenders due to BDS pressure.
A leading France-based Israeli businessman recently told the Israeli media that the growing strength of the BDS movement means that most major European companies now avoid investing in Israel.
Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46% in 2014 as compared to 2013, according to a UN report, partially due to the impressive growth of the BDS impact, as admitted by one of the report’s authors.
The Israel Export Institute has revealed that Israel’s exports in 2015 have dropped by 7% over 2014.
Moody’s, a leading credit ratings agency, has warned that “the Israeli economy could suffer should BDS gain greater traction.