Egyptians launch boycott of Orange-owned Mobinil over complicity in Israeli crimes

BDS Egypt is urging customers to dump mobile phone provider Mobinil, which is owned by Israeli-occupation profiteer Orange.

Egyptian campaigners are calling on fellow citizens to dump the mobile phone company Mobinil because its parent corporation Orange is complicit in Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

At a Saturday press conference in Cairo, spokespersons for BDS Egypt urged the public to immediately switch their service to other companies. Egyptian law allows customers to change providers while keeping the same phone number.

They announced that the boycott would continue until Orange withdrew from Israel and ended its support for the Israeli occupation army.

Mobinil, with at least 33 million customers in Egypt, is 99 percent owned by Orange, making Egypt one of the French multinational’s largest markets.

Campaigners cited Orange’s direct support and sponsorship of Israeli military units – especially the “Ezuz” armored brigade – as they participated in the lethal assault on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

The extent of Orange’s role in the Gaza attack was revealed by The Electronic Intifada in April.

The boycott of Mobinil is the first campaign of BDS Egypt, a civil society coalition formed last month to support the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

The campaign focuses on “addressing the violations committed by Israel and in creating a new reality in which the balance of power is in favor of the Palestinian people’s rights,” BDS Egypt said in a press release.

BDS Egypt says it is a nonpartisan campaign open to all who support its goals and methods. According to a spokesperson at the press conference, ten political parties and several trade unions are already backing the Mobinil boycott.

Partner in crime

Orange operates in Israel through a franchise agreement with an Israeli company called Partner Communications Ltd.

The global telecom company participates in systematic violations of Palestinian rights, according to an investigation published this month by a coalition of French and Palestinian human rights and labor organizations.

The report notes that Orange profits from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as Partner operates hundreds of communications towers and other infrastructure, much of it on privately owned land confiscated from Palestinians.

There are also dozens of Orange-branded stores in settlements Israel has built in the West Bank in violation of international law.

Escalating campaign

Egyptian organizers plan to escalate the campaign, but said the boycott could end as soon as next week if Orange were to use its annual shareholders meeting in Paris on 27 May to announce an end to its complicity in Israeli crimes.

BDS Egypt has already written to Mobinil and Orange management laying out its demands. If the companies do not act in response to the boycott, future measures will include calling for boycotts of companies owned by Mobinil and urging Egyptians not to allow Mobinil communications towers or advertisements on their property.

“Our goal is not to destroy Mobinil and similar companies,” Ramy Shaat, founding member of The Road of the Revolution, said at the press conference. “Our goal is that they stop profiting from killing and occupation.”

Shaat also stressed the power and potential of the Egyptian public when it is made aware of the companies’ involvement in Israeli abuses.

“One of our key methods is raising the consciousness of the Egyptian people, who are already enraged at Israeli crimes and the ongoing occupation,” Shaat said.

He added that the campaign would use meetings, media and social media to educate the public about the reasons for the boycott.

“When the Egyptian people realizes that Orange supports the occupation,” Shaat said, “and that this company owns a company in Egypt called Mobinil, they will refuse to pay a penny to such a company.”

“We will show the company that the Egyptian people can cause you losses, until you withdraw,” Shaat added.

Worldwide petition

BDS Egypt and BDS France hope to raise global awareness with a joint online petition urging Orange to end its deal with Partner, in English, French and Arabic.

BDS Egypt is also posting updates on its Facebook page and on its Twitter account @BDSEgypt.

Orange, directly and through its subsidiaries, has about 250 million customers in dozens of countries.

Orange operates through various ownership arrangements: in the UK under the name EE, in Belgium as Mobistar, in Morocco as Médi Télécom and in Iraq as Korek Telecom.

It operates under the “Orange” brand in France, Spain, Jordan and Tunisia among others.

Video

Arabic-speakers can watch the video of the press conference featuring speakers, from right to left as the video begins: Mohamad Salem of the Egyptian Democratic Party; Ramy Shaat, founding member of The Road of the Revolution (Thuwar); Abdelrahman Abu Salem of BDS Egypt – The Egyptian Popular Campaign for the Boycott of Israel and independent journalist Ahmad El-Sheikh.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.