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June 8, 2015 2:07 pm

Major Jewish Group Lashes French Ambassador for Apparent Endorsement of Israel Boycott

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

French Ambassador Gerard Araud. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called on the French ambassador to the United States to retract comments the group said “appear to be an attempt to support discriminatory actions against Israel.”

“In response to statements by the CEO of the French telecom company, Orange, regarding his company’s business in Israel, France’s Ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, tweeted messages seemingly justifying a boycott of Israel by raising extraneous issues regarding the status of the West Bank territories,” said the conference.

“It is as inappropriate as it is inexplicable, why the French Ambassador would make comments that seem to endorse the Orange executive’s unacceptable comments,” Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Stephen Greenberg, and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, continued.

“We believe the Ambassador must immediately and publicly retract his comments,” the Jewish leaders said.

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Hoenlein told the Algemeiner that Araud’s statement added “to the delegitimization and demonization of Israel.”

Since Orange CEO Stephane Richard’s inflammatory comments last week, the company has undergone extensive damage control efforts, with multiple clarifications of Richard’s comments as well as a scheduled visit by the CEO to Israel to quell the discomfort raised surrounding the remarks that he sought to end business ties with Israel immediately.

But amid the hubbub, the French ambassador raised eyebrows with a comment contending that doing business with companies invested in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank is illegal.

“4th Geneva convention : settlement policy in occupied territories is illegal. It is illegal to contribute to it in any way,” he wrote on Twitter.

The outrage at Araud’s comment included a lengthy Twitter back-and-forth with a law professor from Northwestern, who argued that France continues to conduct business in disputed territories such as the Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, and therefore Araud’s statement represented holding a double standard against the Jewish state.

Ultimately, the French ambassador took the line of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and said he opposed any boycott measures against Israel, but he went short of retracting his original statement.

“Whatever the debate about occupied territories, France condemns all boycott of Israel, which is a different issue,” said Araud.

Hoenlein was not impressed by this justification, however.

“Once a statement is made like the one he made, it can’t be simply retracted, the damage is done,” he told the Algemeiner.

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