It’s Too Easy to be an Anti-Semite (JPost)

AS2 - CopyThe moment I heard that Stéphane Richard, the CEO of Orange, had said on Egyptian television that he wished his company could end its licensing agreement here “tomorrow morning,” I googled three words: “Orange,” “mobile” and “Syria.”

Lo and behold, there’s an Orange store in Aleppo. Hop in for an iPhone, for accessories, whatever you need. (The store even has a Facebook page.) Stéphane Richard, it seems, has no problem having an Orange store in the country that has gassed to death hundreds or thousands of its own children, that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and has turned literally millions of its own people into homeless refugees.

No, Stéphane Richard does not seem to have a problem with Syria, and it’s not Aleppo he wants Orange to exit. He has a problem with Israel, and it’s Tel Aviv he would like to leave.

Well, that is unless you take seriously his panicked and obsequious backpedaling once he had been “invited” (“summoned?”) to Israel and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It’s an honor to meet with you this morning, and it also gives me an opportunity to clear up the confusion that was created after those statements. I deeply regret this controversy,” stated Richard in front of the prime minister as the cameras were clicking.AS1 - Copy

Part of that was actually true. Richard clearly does regret the controversy – one can only imagine what his chief investors said to him in the hours after he accidentally revealed himself to be an unabashed anti-Semite. For were Richard’s objections to the conduct of conflict, Orange would have been out of Syria long before he ever thought of Israel.

No, this is about Jews, and in that regard, the Orange CEO follows an august line of Europeans whose hatred for the Jews continues unabated, just transforming itself to fit the times. Once it was opposition to Jewish theology – now it’s opposition to the Jewish nation-state.

As for Richard’s claim that his visit was “an opportunity to clear up the confusion that was created” by what he said – that’s rubbish, and had Netanyahu had his wits about him, he would have pointed that out. What “confusion” was there? Why, in fact, did the prime minister of Israel see fit to meet with an unabashed enemy of the Jewish people? Does he imagine that Stéphane Richard was convinced of anything by virtue of his visit? Were the Jewish people somehow ennobled by having Richard come to Israel just to lie to us? The Israeli response was absurd.

French telecom operator Orange Chairman and CEO Stephane Richard speaks during the company's 2014 annual results presentation in Paris February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The right thing to do would have been to organize, as quickly as possible, an international, global-as-possible boycott of Orange. There have to be hundreds of significant corporations, and thousands of smaller companies, who do business with Orange but have investors or clients or advertisers or legal representatives who are Jewish, or care about Israel.

The right move would have been not to invite Richard to Israel to stay in a luxury hotel and meet the prime minster, but to make it clear to Orange that having someone like Richard as its CEO was going to cost them a lot of money.

Yet we Jews don’t react that way. Take the incident at UCLA a few months ago, when Jewish student Rachel Beyda, who had been nominated to the students’ judicial board, was asked by another student, Fabienne Roth, how she could maintain an unbiased position given her relationship to the Jewish community.

In other words, Roth wanted to know, “How can you be fair when you’re a Jew?” The student council debated Beyda’s candidacy, and actually voted her down. Only when a faculty member pointed out the problematic aspects of such a decision did they vote again and appoint her to the board.AS4

Imagine if Fabienne Roth had asked an African-American candidate, “How can you maintain an unbiased view when you’re black?” Just imagine the national outcry and the vehement expressions of rage. Or imagine if Fabienne Roth had asked a Muslim student, “How can you be fair when you’re a Muslim?” Does anyone doubt what would have happened on UCLA’s campus? Because Rachel Beyda is Jewish, however, our response was: to write blogs.

It is actually pathetic that more people know the name of Rachel Beyda – who was just a pawn in the incident and neither did nor said anything remarkable – than know the name of Fabienne Roth – who, like Stéphane Richard, showed herself to be an ugly anti-Semite.

And like Richard, Roth was allowed to make a perfunctory apology and move right along.

This has to stop. In an era in which anti-Semitism is once again sweeping across wide swathes of the world, we need to make it clear that while we cannot make holding anti-Semitic views illegal, we can make expressing them very expensive.

In this Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 photo, student Fabienne Roth pauses for a photo at the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. With the University of California system budget having become a political football in the state capital, admissions officers and administrators throughout the UC system still don’t know how many students they can enroll, whether there will be enough money to expand the number from California and if talk about significantly raising tuition for nonresidents will scare off students from outside the state and abroad that campuses have increasingly relied on to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

A well-organized Jewish community would let Fabienne Roth know that if she becomes a lawyer, any firm that hires her will have picketers outside its offices until she is fired. Its Jewish and other fair-minded clients will be pressured to leave the firm. Having Roth on staff has to become a liability – not for a month or two, not for a year or two. For decades.

If Fabienne Roth becomes a physician, then whatever hospital or practice hires her needs to know they will experience the same pressure. Should Roth choose not to have a career, she will still have a home somewhere. She should not be able to exit or enter her home without encountering a small number of polite, lawful protesters, who will remind her – day in and day out – that we know exactly what she is. If and when she has children, we’ll remind them, too.

It is time to say that we have had enough.

Europe will never be cured of the disease called anti-Semitism; increasingly, the disease will cross the ocean to the US as well. We may be able to combat some of it through education, through productive relationships with gentile religious and political leaders. There may be much we can do to stem the tide.AS5

But when those efforts fail, when seemingly intelligent people like CEOs of massive corporations or students at UCLA prove themselves to be anti-Semites, we need to remind the world that not for naught is the Jewish people one of the very-best-organized communities in the world.

For centuries, Jews have paid the price for anti-Semitism. The time has come for the anti-Semites to start paying the price.

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About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

15 Comments on "It’s Too Easy to be an Anti-Semite (JPost)"

  • Paul Lilling says

    Dear Daniel,

    Absolutely on target. Thank you. I know that I am not alone. I am four score and one. My Rabbi spent 7 months in Europe two years ago and upon returning conducted comprehensive multiple sessions for the congregation, invitations to the Jewish community, and any one else in the Orlando community who wished to here his analysis of his trip. He summed it up: ” The Jews are finished in Europe”

  • david says

    Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism

    Identify it Name it Fight it Defeat it

  • Saul Rapkin says

    Rabbi Gordis:
    In your remarks concerning how Fabienne Roth should be treated I think you went too far when you wrote: “If and when she has children, we’ll remind them, too.”. Visiting the sins of the parents upon succeeding generations may be God’s right, but it should not be ours.

    I would have preferred to have you suggest how Roth might be able to repent and earn our forgiveness, rather than perpetuating our mutual animosity.

  • Rafael says

    I really agree with Dr. Gordis. We should boycott Orange (for instance). But (and it’s a big “but”) court Jews are everywhere. I’m sure they aren’t too many. But they manage to overturn this kind of efforts. They occupy posts in countries that are friendly to Iran, like Argentina….talk about boycott. How can a community, even a resourceful one, tilt the balance when such so-called Jews are so much against their own blood?

  • Stanley Tee says

    Thank you Rabbi Gordis! You’ve had me worried for a while, but finally, a column that reminds me why I subscribe to your emails.

  • E. Axelrod says

    In the seven years since I first heard Daniel Gordis speak, I have read most of what he has written and have found him to be consistently balanced and thoughtful, grasping the complexity of most situations. But I am very disappointed in this essay. It is right to hold Orange and Richard accountable for their words and actions. However, I question the decision to extensively excoriate a young college student who clearly made a serious mistake, but may have learned from it and may regret it, and suggest that this mistake should affect the way she is perceived and treated for her entire life. If there is evidence that her apology was not genuine or that she has engaged in other anti-Semitic behavior, I haven’t seen it.

    • JB Silver says

      I agree with E. Axelrod; a teenager, who may well be herself Jewish, should definitely be taught the error of her ways. But to threaten her with lifelong persecution?! I hope Rabbi Gordis was caught up in the moment, and regrets this.
      Against ORANGE? Rabbi Gordis is 100% correct.

  • Leslie Benjamini says

    Daniel, as usual you are right on spot. This is exactly what we have to do.
    Yesterday I watched a video of P.M. Netanyahu speaking to the Diaspora & he made the point that we have to stand up strong & proud & forcefully about our Jewishness & for Israel, not be meek or apologetic but have the facts & speak out whenever we can . This I have always done & will continue to do.
    David Horovitz wrote a column on the UN report on Gaza & the woman in charge of the report that was so on spot as well.
    Point being, we can write all we want & that is critical because it makes people think & hopefully spurs them to proper action, but we need action. Especially from Diaspora Jews. Of which I am unfortunately one.
    Keep writing these wonderful articles, (I know you will without me telling you to.)
    Thank you
    Leslie Benjamini

  • paul antell says

    Dear Daniel,
    I just finished listening to the video of your address to the AJC convention.
    Wow. What a call to action . It was so invigorating. I started asking myself a few questions. What more could I have done?
    How can I convince my fellow congregants and friends to stand
    up for Israel and help “cure the viral expansion of antisemitism”?
    I promise I will find the answer to these questions.
    The first item on my agenda is getting people to listen to your talk. I am sure there will be many to answer the call to arms.

    Or Best to your family and enjoy your grandchild.

    Kol Ha Kavod

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