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January 26, 2016 4:44 am

What Is Richard Branson’s Problem With Israel?

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Richard Branson. Photo: Facebook.

Richard Branson. Photo: Facebook.

Richard Branson is the business magnate who heads the venture capital conglomerate Virgin Group, known best for its Virgin Atlantic airlines and Virgin Mobile wireless communications brand. He has been dubbed a master at business and public relations, and has accrued billions of dollars through his dealings.

I have met him on a few occassions. Once, in Oxford, when he opened a restaurant with my friend, world-renowed chef Raymond Blanc. And again at the World Economic Forum in Davos. On both occassions he was friendly, approachable and very down-to-earth.

But a little known and unfortunate fact about Branson is his strange, anti-Israel opinions and activities that are beneath a man known for having a good and kind heart.

In 2007, Branson founded an organization called “The Elders,” which was made up of a council of 12 elder statesmen who would serve as “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.” One of the top goals and priorities of this organization is to inject itself into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and influence its outcome. Branson sits on the The Elders Advisory Council and uses his massive wealth to fund the organization. Unfortunately, the elders whom Branson selected for his new group are a Who’s Who of some of the most tenacious, anti-Israel public figures in the world today. The Elders’ anti-Israel statements and press releases condemning the Jewish state are a sad testament to this fact.

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Topping the Elders’ list is former President Jimmy Carter, a man dedicated to the disgustingly fraudulent and antisemitic proposition that Israel is an apartheid state. Carter’s defamatory fabrications about the Jewish state include the lie not only that Israel is like apartheid South Africa, but that “voices from Jerusalem dominate our media.” Last year he claimed Netanyahu wasn’t interested in making peace, but said about Hamas’ arch terrorist leader Khaled Meshal, “I don’t believe that he’s a terrorist. He’s strongly in favor of the peace process.” It has been shown that the Carter Center receives tens of millions from countries with appalling human rights records that are dedicated to Israel’s delegitimization including Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. He also received $500,000 from the antisemitic, terrorist-supporting Zayed Center, whose efforts he went on to praise the following year. The list of Carter’s actions and statements against the Jewish state are degrading to the august office of the presidency of the United States, even if they were stated after the fact.

Yet in 2014, Branson named Jimmy Carter as one of his “top five most respected people in the world,” and a man “ahead of his time.” At a conference in Egypt, Branson introduced Carter as “Perhaps arguably the most remarkable person alive today.” After pressing the audience to give Carter a second round of applause, Branson announced, “I think it’s fair to say that he’s one of the few people in this world who has stayed faithful to the Palestinians.”

Branson is a brilliant man. Does he really believe that someone who has allowed the Palestinians to continue in their self-defeating terror path is loyal to their cause? Surely Branson is aware that the only people dedicated to the Palestinians’ welfare are those who encourage them to democratize, spend money on schools rather than bombs, invest in universities rather than rockets and teach their children to love their own heritage rather than hate the Jews.

Other “elders” in Branson’s organization include the notoriously anti-Israel, antisemitic Bishop Desmond Tutu, whom I have also met on several occasions, including at the Oxford Union. Tutu is a supporter of the BDS movement, calling for an economic and cultural boycott of Israel. His bigoted views have surfaced with statements such as, “The Jewish lobby is powerful — very powerful,” while accusing Jews of “an arrogance — the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.”  Tutu has stated that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism,” and has accused the Jewish state of subjecting the Palestinians to “Israeli Apartheid.” He believes that the Palestinians are suffering more than the Jews did during the Holocaust, stating that “the gas chambers” had made for “a neater death” for the Jews.

Clearly such views are not just a moral abomination but represent a deplorable and uncleansable stain on the reputation of a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Is this what Richard Branson had in mind when he stated in an interview, “And obviously after the Second World War, the world had enormous sympathy for the Jewish people. Over a number of decades, that sympathy has been lost…”?

I believe in my heart that Branson is a good and charitable man. So why say these things about the Jews?

Branson also tapped the corrupt former head of the UN, Kofi Annan, the same man who overruled UN General Romeo Dallaire in April 1994 and ordered him not to use his UN forces to disarm the Hutus in Rwanda and prevent them from hacking to death 800,000 Tutsis. Annan in the past declared that Saddam Hussein was a man he could do business with, and then sat down to smoke expensive cigars with the Butcher of Baghdad. He also declared himself “deeply moved” by the death of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat and ordered the UN flag flown at half mast.

Also included in Branson’s Elders group is the man Kofi Annan appointed as United Nations special representative for Afghanistan and Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi. During Brahimi’s assignment he criticized Israel’s violence and suppression of Palestinians and called Israel “the big poison in the region.”

Nice.

Branson, apparently, sees eye to eye with Brahimi. After his 2009 trip to Israel with the Elders, Branson wrote, “On my return I rang my 92 year old father and told him of our trip. It’s strange” he said “that the Israel politicians seem to like keeping a wound open and festering year after year.” Now, perhaps his father said this out of ignorance. Perhaps he’s unaware of all the Israeli attempts to make peace with the Palestinans that ended with thousands of Israelis dead in suicide bomb attacks. But then Branson ought to know better than the response he gave his father: “Lets hope 2009 will be the year that the wound is healed.”

Branson’s crack team of peace-makers also includes Mary Robinson, the former head of one of the most corrupt anti-Israel organizations on earth, the UN Human Rights Council.  During her time there, she presided over the Durban “World Conference Against Racism,” which has gone down in history as one of the most vile displays of public antisemitic in recent times. Yet she described the conference as “remarkably good, including on the issues of the Middle East.”

During the Gaza conflict of 2014, she and Jimmy Carter wrote a letter arguing for the recognition and inclusion of Hamas due to the genocidal terrorist group’s “legitimacy as a political actor.” The Elders had earlier that year praised the Hamas-Fatah unity government.

Robinson’s appointment on the Elders council isn’t surprising, seeing as how Branson ignored the fact that Hamas has fired more than 14,000 missiles at Israeli towns when he said, “Just watching Israel bombarding Palestine and Palestine sending one or two little rockets over to Israel — it’s just too sad for words. ”

Branson also has former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari on the board, who has called on the Western world to end the boycott of Hamas.

Branson has been a very public figure in the business world. I actually admire the swashbuckling commercial image he has cultivated. Why does he have to tarnish his image and his brand with these anti-Israel statements and associations? Why pour millions of dollars into activities aimed at harming and weakening the Jewish State?

His organization continues to be a force for the defamation of Israel. Jimmy Carter recently spoke on behalf of The Elders, stating, “We have also encouraged Europeans for instance, at least to label products that are made by Israeli people who occupy Palestine and ship their products out of Palestine to be sold in Europe. … so that the buyers can decide whether they want to buy them or not.”

The time has come for Richard Branson to follow his generosity of spirit by dissociating himself from arch-Israel haters, ceasing to fund them and to support and stand behind the Middle East’s only democracy. After all, Israel is not just the Jewish state. As a bastion of freedom and human rights in the worldl’s most tyrannical region, it’s also the greatest Arab hope that one day Arab countries will similary copy its example of liberal democracy and human rights.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition, and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He will shortly publish “The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.”

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Marcus

    Someone I know was honored at a Virgin business affair. Branson told him that his father served in Palestine towards the end of the mandate when the Jews were fighting the British. The hatred may not be logical

  • Naomi

    To challenge Branson’s agenda Rabbi Boteach would do well to publish his comments and also post them to the ‘Elders’, but without the naive questions or obvious statements that appear in this article. Highlighting these people’s views vis a vis a very different factual reality could be a powerful weapon, as well as pointing out the uniformity of their agenda and the stupidity of their claims.

  • stevenl

    A “nice click of antisemites”! How is that no one from Iran is mentioned?

  • brenrod

    Why does boteach keep defending Branson? I thank him for exposing Branson but his defense of him is absurd. Israel and Jews need to clearly identify their existential enemies who are funding those trying to kill the Jews and destroy Israel. folks like Branson and Soros should be covertly destroyed and their wealth with them. They are an existential danger to every Jew and like all the top nazis I hope that those funding Jew killers are themselves destroyed by any means necessary.

  • Wendy Gardner

    Thank you for this article. I have seen this nowhere else. I may have to change my phone service. I have to use a cheap one. Can anyone tell me if Tracfone has the same problem in its leadership? I don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

  • Paul Goodman

    Dear Rabbi,
    I see that your years at Oxford were well spent. Your article shows your adept use of irony to condemn another wealthy antisemite. Remember Henry Ford?

  • Josephine Bacon

    Your trouble, Boteach, is that you are a worshipper of fame over substance.

  • Steve Lorb

    I suspect you’ve discovered where some of Branson’s money comes from. Everyone of these so called “elders” is a money whore who will say anything for a petro dollar.

  • Goldstein…

    Tooo Bad…I always liked Branson!!!

  • tiki

    Richard Branson might be a “brilliant” businessman, but he’s a lousy judge of character and an banal Jew hater.

    The only good thing about his organisation “the Elders is that his members soon will be ex-members.

  • Dani Rakoff

    Rabbi Boteach is extremely kind in this article and withholds calling a spade a spade for what reason I am not sure.
    Because one is kind and good and generous or even a genius does not contradict a hatred of Jews or the causes of the Jewish people, this history has proven time and time again.

    Be it Pharaoh ” whose heart was hardened” against the Jewish people to Hitler who loved his dog and german children with all his heart, Branson is just another goy who happens to have lots of money and happens to have anti semitic tendencies. Theirs nothing Virginal about him or his ideas.

  • Jay

    A person is judged by the company he/she keeps. Richard Branson may be a brilliant businessman, but keeping company with the likes of Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy Carter tells us a lot about Richard Branson, the person.

  • ISAAC WATERMAN

    Mr. Branson can be a clever business, but he is one without a heart. Most people are not aware of his anti-Semitic views and the time has come to boycott his company Virgin, which is not a virgin anymore.
    I’m very disappointed about his thoughts and behavior and the time has come to let him know that.
    Please join me in boycotting all his business affairs.

    Isaac Waterman

  • When you lie down with antisemitic dogs, you get up covered with antisemitic fleas. Branson has made his antisemitic bed, he will not change. At this point he is as antisemitic as al these other Elders aka Jew Haters.

  • Rachel Cohen

    Branson is a Godless Marxist globalist. He is a big fan of the anti-Semite Jimmy Carter.

  • Eve

    This article is too generous to Branson. He will not dissociate from these antisemites brecause he is one himself. He was in perfect step with his antisemitic father. The time has come to boycott Virgin.

  • Sam Harris

    Dear Rabbi Boteach; Save your energy for those even closer to us,the young and ill informed Jews who hate Israel and all thing Jewish.

  • JarredS

    Jimmy Carter(after Obama the worst US President ever}Desmond Tutu (Witch Doctor)Mary Robinson (uses a broom as a means of transport)Koffi Annan (the less said about him the better)

    Someone once described these four…… As The Four Monkeys Of The Apocalypse…As to Richard Branson,some things are just to hard to explain without getting into too much trouble…..

  • He isn’t saying anything that almost half the JEWS in the Knesset aren’t saying. THEY are the ones to be chastised. Ask them why THEY keep justifying the ‘Palestinians’.

  • Paul Grad

    “Have no contact with the Nazi.” — Winston S. Churchill

  • Rabbi Boteach, you are extremely forbearing, and wise, to leave us to draw the obvious conclusion of Richard Branson’s aberrant attitude towards Israel. Thank you for informing us.Boycotts appear the non violent choice for protest, so let’s go! VIRGIN is the highly visible brand name and there are many alternatives out there. I can be smug–I changed my broadband years ago,the service was rubbish.

  • Shabtay Stefano Gay

    Dear Rav,
    I really don’t know how friendly you are with this pervicacious antisemitic fellow. Why you don’t speack out that he is a ferocious enemy of the Bnei Israel around the world ?

    Thank you

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