Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, shows signs of mild embarrassment in the wake of reports it consigned Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, to a list of firms deemed too “ethically questionable” for investment by ostensibly ethically minded investors.
Bank Hapoalim indeed featured on the list, but Deutsche Bank later averred this was merely a recommendation by an outside consultant from Denmark.
It needs be stressed that the actual damage to Bank Hapoalim is likely to be minimal at most. If anything, the impact on Deutsche Bank’s image will be greater. It goes beyond the specter of a German financial giant boycotting a Jewish concern. Deutsche Bank has a particularly dark past, even for a veteran German corporation.
It underwrote the construction and operation of Auschwitz, a fact it kept under wraps until 1999. Much as today’s bank executives may righteously dissociate themselves from their institution’s past, the symbolism cannot be dodged. Already back in 1933, Deutsche Bank dismissed its Jewish employees. It was very active in what was dubbed ”the Aryanization of Jewish businesses.” It was the Gestapo’s chief financier.
That may in part explain the eagerness to promote such initiatives as the “moral investment plan” that blacklists Hapoalim. The morally superior facade may in itself provide a form of psychosocial uplift.
Be that as it may, there is effrontery in the notion of a bank with the most sinister of histories presuming to pass judgment on a Jewish bank for no other reason than that it has branches that operate beyond the non-border that is the 1949 armistice line (a.k.a. the Green Line). That suffices to lump Bank Hapoalim with some of the most unsavory arms dealers, etc.
Worse yet, Deutsche Bank is not alone, although there is particular odium in this particular organization’s alacrity to conform to the edicts of Europe’s de rigueur political correctness.
Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, also placed Hapoalim on its blacklist, though Danske has never invested in Hapoalim. The Swedish-based Nordea Bank has approached Bank Leumi and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot with inquiries about their across-the-Green-Line presences.
Norwegian pension funds have likewise announced they will not invest in given Israeli companies.
More than any of this affects the financial well-being of Israeli banking, however, it unmasks the underside of European sanctimony. The fact that a situation, which has existed for nearly half-a-century, has suddenly and contagiously begun to seemingly outrage so many in Europe, raises moral questions – more about the organizers of the apparently obligatory outrage than about the situation in the Middle East.
Israel is by no yardstick an imperialist ogre but rather a tiny and vulnerable country that is forced to defend itself.
At most the territories Israel controls are disputed and not occupied in the traditional sense. The essence of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is to determine the future of those territories.
The companies that attempt to boycott Israel refuse to recognize these efforts, and close their eyes to the true occupiers – all the way from Turkey and Morocco to China.
The double standard and demonization unleashed against Israel attest to something that runs deeper than the holier-than-thou criteria for not doing business with the Jewish state.
Israel has been singled out for abuse and slander. This allows it to be vituperated as no other state; there is never any scrutiny before ultra-liberal Israel is castigated as a fascist and racist promoter of all sins – from apartheid to all-inclusive “crimes against humanity.” Any sort of mud may be slung at Israel collectively, just as it once was slung in Europe against hapless Jews individually.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that, to say the least, Israel is being delegitimized by latter-day Judeophobes who cynically deny their Judeophobia.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted this week that “in the past anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state, and by the way, only the Jewish state. It is important that the boycotters be exposed for what they are – they are classical anti-Semites in modern garb.”
To borrow his phrase, it is indeed time to “delegitimize the delegitimizers."
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders