German bank executives may be included on top 10 list of antisemitism cases

Critics say the Cologne-based BFS is a hotbed of BDS activity.

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May 13, 2018 03:25
3 minute read.
German bank executives may be included on top 10 list of antisemitism cases

The German flag is pictured at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, November 7, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE)

 
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International human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center is considering the inclusion of three senior executives of the German Bank for Social Economy (BFS) on its list of the top ten worst cases of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity in 2018 because of the bank’s aggressive enabling of the BDS campaign targeting the Jewish state.

“We condemn the leaders of any bank that continues to allow BFS to do business with those who work to damage and ultimately do away with the Jewish state," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the center, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

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"Today's Germans are not responsible for the genocidal crimes of their ancestors but do have a moral obligation to do no harm to the Jewish people.

"Those who choose to abet Israel's enemies will be considered for the center's 2018 top ten antisemitic/anti-Israel list," said Cooper.

He added that the “BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement is an extreme anti-peace, anti-Israel and antisemitic global campaign that demonizes and threatens the Jewish state and the well being of the world's largest Jewish community. Simon Wiesenthal Center commends the many Germans who recognize this fact and refuse to have anything with BDS.”

The three BFS executives who may end up on the list are: Harald Schmitz, the chairman of the bank, and his two deputies, Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis. Numerous Post media queries sent to Schmitz, Luckner and Kahleis were not returned.

The Wiesenthal Center will announce the top ten outbreaks of antisemitism and anti-Israel activity for its list in December.

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The center’s announcement that it is contemplating the inclusion of the bank’s top management team is the first instance of a financial institution facing international opprobrium on the Wiesenthal list.

Critics say the Cologne-based BFS is a hotbed of BDS activity. The bank maintains at least four accounts that directly or indirectly aid the BDS campaign to undermine and dismantle the existence of Israel.

Schmitz and Luckner have gone to great lengths in public and on Twitter to defend the account of the extremist Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East.

Asaf Romirowsky, the executive director of the over 40,000 member organization Scholars for Peace in Middle East, wrote to the bank on Friday “to express our great concern following the recent reports about ​your bank providing financial use to antisemitic BDS groups.”

He added that “the BDS movement seeks to isolate the Jewish state from the international community in order to secure a Palestinian state by threatening Israel's existence. BDS seeks a one-state solution rather than an Israeli and Palestinian state living side by side in peace. Moreover, BDS has active ties with states and groups that advance hate and terrorism at large.”

Romirowsky, a leading expert on BDS and the Middle East, wrote: “As a financial institution, we urge you to uphold your fiduciary duty to your constituents ensuring that you do business with individuals and groups who work in sound economic manner."

His letter concluded, “Finally, we would encourage you to follow your colleagues from Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank and DAB that have terminated accounts of BDS groups due to reasons that include connections to Palestinian terrorism and antisemitism.”

The bank did not respond to the letter from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. A spokesman for the organization Action Forum Israel, a joint German and Israeli membership group formed to fight modern antisemitism in Germany, told the Post that his group has written emails to the bank protesting its alleged enabling of a boycott of Israel.

The spokesman said the bank removed public emails on its website, including for its spokeswoman Stephanie Rüth, and replaced the emails with an electronic contact form to fill out.

It is unclear if the emails were deleted because of the growing public outrage over the bank’s alleged enabling of BDS. In April, the LGBT organization Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation — named after a gay Jewish sexual researcher and victim of the Nazis - pulled the plug on its account with the bank over the financial institution’s anti-Israel policies.

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