(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy will be forbidden to conduct business with the city of Frankfurt – Germany’s financial capital – because of the bank’s accounts for boycott groups targeting Israel, Frankfurt Deputy Mayor Uwe Becker told The Jerusalem Post.
“The city of Frankfurt will, in the future, only work with banks who do not maintain business relations with the antisemitic BDS movement, and, accordingly, with BDS organizations,” Becker, who is also Frankfurt’s treasurer, said on Tuesday.
“I consider it extremely problematic when banks, including in Germany, maintain business relations with organizations that incite antisemitism and place Israel’s existence in question,” he said. “Against this background, the Bank for Social Economy should reconsider its position, particularly since the German Bundestag has also in the meantime assessed BDS as antisemitic.”
Becker, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, is one of the most prominent pro-Israel politicians in Germany.
The Bank for Social Economy (Bank für Sozialwirtschaft) maintains numerous BDS accounts for organizations that advance or support BDS-activity. One of the groups – Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East – has been widely slammed by German-Jewish leaders and establishment Jewish human rights organizations in Israel, Germany and the US. The bank’s CEO Harald Schmitz has gone to great lengths to defend Jewish Voice on the bank’s website and in press communications to groups protesting the alleged antisemitic policies of the bank. Schmitz declined to respond to Post queries regarding Becker’s criticism of the bank.
Becker said, “The BDS-movement expresses with its messages the same language that the National Socialists once used: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’.” The Frankfurt municipal authorities classified BDS as antisemitic, he said.
“The core of BDS is to delegitimize the State of Israel with the goals of boycott and defamation,” Becker added.
The bank is facing growing dissatisfaction from clients over its BDS accounts. The Berlin-based Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation closed its account on Friday with the bank to protest the bank’s anti-Israel activity.
Bianca Klose, a spokeswoman for the Mobile Counsel against Right-wing Extremism in Berlin and Brandenburg, said her organization is reviewing its account with bank. “Our board responsible for this will confront the bank regarding its business policies with our criticism and ask the bank to examine this,” said Klose.
Two neo-Nazi parties in Germany – the National Democratic Party and the Third Way – actively support BDS.
Axel Stelten, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Association of Berlin-Brandenburg (LSVD), told the Post on Tuesday that LSVD condemns every form of antisemitism. “Regarding the activities of the BDS groups we are dismayed and deeply reject the activities.”
Stelten said LSVD’s executive board will examine the Bank for Social Economy’s BDS activity and “take the necessary steps.” LSVD has an account with the bank.
It is unclear whether Berlin and Munich, two cities that ban the use of public space and public funds by BDS groups, will replicate the Frankfurt decision and outlaw business with the Bank for Social Economy.
Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis, two additional members of the bank’s troika executive committee, declined to respond to Becker’s criticism.
Anja Stoiser, a spokesman for Hans Jörg Millies, who is on the bank’s board of directors, said he is not available for a Post interview.
Dieter Schütz, a spokesman for board member Norbert Emmerich, referred the Post to the bank’s website statement defending the BDS group.
Bastian Borregaard, a spokesman for bank board member Christian Graf von Bassewitz, said he can’t comment because of a bereavement situation.
Becker told the Post that he submitted a proposal to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer calling for a nation-wide ban of the BDS campaign.
Inciting antisemitism and antisemitic behavior should be banned in Germany, Becker said.