cover image Bitter Scent: The Case of L'Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott

Bitter Scent: The Case of L'Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott

Michael Bar-Zohar. Dutton Books, $24.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94068-5

In 1989, Jean Frydman, a director of L'Oreal, the highly profitable Paris-based cosmetics conglomerate, learned he had ""resigned"" at a board of directors meeting that never actually took place. A hero of the French Resistance, founder of Paravision (a L'Oreal subsidiary), a Jew and a part-time resident of Israel, Frydman suspected that his resignation had been forged to meet the demands of the Arab League, which, at that time, was enforcing a ban--illegal in both France and the U.S.--on businesses with ties to Israel. He later began to suspect that the instigator of his removal was Jacques Correze, a former Nazi collaborator and convicted war criminal who was head of the company's U.S. operation. The ensuing lawsuits created a scandal in France. As retold by Bar-Zohar, a novelist and a biographer of David Ben-Gurion, L'Oreal was a hotbed of former Nazi sympathizers all too willing to bribe and be pressured by anti-Zionists. It also had friends in high places, Bar-Zohar claims, as high as French President Fran ois Mitterand, who appeared publicly as an archenemy of the boycott. The author milks the situation for its melodrama, with reconstructed conversation, numerous flashbacks and trumped-up suspense. He seems to be hoping reviewers will say his tale, though true, reads like a novel. It might have read even better as straightforward journalism, since he has unsuccessfully blended reportage with the techniques of fiction. (Nov.)