Israeli Hysteria Over BDS Hyped in NY Times

Israel is in an uproar, The New York Times informs us, after a French business executive announced that he would pull out of a deal with an Israeli cell phone company. We learn that officials and citizens are venting on social media and in the press, fuming over this latest insult prompted by the Palestinian boycott movement.

Isabel Kershner in “French Telecom Executive’s Remarks on Israel Incite Furor” writes that the remarks by Stephane Richard of Orange “touched a nerve in Israel” because of concern over the growth of boycott, divestment and sanctions, known as BDS. Richard said in Cairo Thursday that he would back out of a contract with an Israeli company “tomorrow,” if it weren’t for the legal and financial penalties.

The resulting firestorm has become big news, and in the Times we hear at length from outraged Israelis and more briefly from a Palestinian civic leader. But missing from the many column inches dedicated to this story are the activists behind the boycott and their reasons for targeting the French company.

Kershner acknowledges the growth of BDS, but she places the blame on the impasse in the peace process and the extremist nature of the latest Israeli cabinet. Nothing is said about the charges against Orange, even though these were laid out in a 53-page report last month.

The report was compiled by a French aid organization, the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development, with the backing of five human rights groups and two French unions. It is titled “Orange: Dangerous Liaisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and it notes that Orange is violating the French foreign ministry’s guidelines against investing in territory occupied by Israel.

Orange contracts with the Israeli company Partner Communications, which has built more than 100 antennas on confiscated Palestinian land, the report states. Partner has also opened shops in illegal Israeli settlements and benefits from Israeli laws that restrict competition from Palestinian companies.

The Times, however, makes no attempt to provide readers with this context. Kershner’s story is all about the Israeli reaction. It has little to say about the stated aims of the BDS movement and nothing to tell us about the charges against Orange.

Other mainstream media, however, have provided this missing information. The Guardian and BBC cite the report and link to it online. Agence France-Presse informs readers of its existence, and France 24 devoted a story to the report immediately after it appeared on May 6. The Electronic Intifada has written extensively about the issue, and Palestinian news agencies also covered the charges against Orange.

All of this is apparently too close to the reality on the ground for the Times. It seems we are not to hear the ugly details of the occupation and the breaches of international law that give rise to BDS actions against Orange and other enterprises.

Times readers lose out once again as the newspaper glosses over the theft of Palestinian land and the suppression of Palestinian commerce, giving precedence to Israeli anxieties. In this skewed vision of journalism, the real news disappears from our newspaper of record.

Barbara Erickson

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