In a first, U.S. calls on German banks to close BDS accounts

The account in question belongs to the Jewish Voice for a Fair Peace in the Middle East and is used to raise funds to promote BDS.

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March 6, 2019 19:30
3 minute read.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the ambassador of U.S. to Germany, Richard Grenell

German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the ambassador of U.S. to Germany, Richard Grenell, in Meseberg, Germany July 6, 2018. (photo credit: AXEL SCHMIDT/REUTERS)

The US government, via its powerful ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, urged German banks this week to shut down accounts they hold on behalf of organizations that support the BDS campaign against the State of Israel.
 
“Germany’s Bundestag passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement and calling on the federal government to resolutely oppose it,” Grenell told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “German banks should therefore cut ties with all organizations linked to the BDS movement. Organizations and people that undermine Israel’s security should be condemned.”
 
Grenell, a prominent supporter of Israel, issued his statement in response to reports in the Post about an account in the German Bank for Social Economy that belongs to a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement organization and deemed to be antisemitic by the nearly 100,000 member Central Council of Jews in Germany.
 
Numerous Post queries to Harald Schmitz, the CEO of the Bank for Social Economy, have been ignored. The account in question belongs to the organization, Jewish Voice for a Fair Peace in the Middle East, and is used to raise funds to promote BDS. There has been a growing trend since 2016 among German banks such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Postbank, PayPal in Germany,
and the Munich-based DAB bank to close the accounts of BDS entities. However, the Bank of Social Economy has defied calls since 2018 from the Israeli government and a host of German and American Jewish organizations to sever ties with the BDS group.
 
Pro-Israel organizations have called on a part-owner of the bank – the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany (ZWST) – to divest from the bank and relocate its business to a bank not engaged in enabling BDS activity.
 
“No Jew and no one who has a sense of decency should do business with these unteachable people,” Daniel Killy, vice president of the German-Israel Friendship Society – one of Germany’s most important pro-Israel organizations – told the Post. “Show solidarity with Israel, cancel your accounts!”
 
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper mirrored Killy’s words, and said that “it is extremely important that Jews and every Jewish institution take their business elsewhere.”
 
Berlin’s Jewish community has an account with the Bank for Social Economy, but its president, Gideon Joffe, refused to say whether the community plans to terminate its account. Sigmount Königsberg, the Berlin Jewish community’s representative to combat antisemitism, punted questions to the ZWST, which also refused to respond.
 
The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Mort Klein, told the Post that “especially in light of Germany’s monstrous history of genocide against the Jews, one would expect a German bank to absolutely refuse to deal with a BDS group whose official goal is destruction of the Jewish state. We urge that all refuse to do business with this bank until this bank’s policy is changed.”
 
“We are long past theoretical discussions, with evidence overwhelming and beyond dispute, that BDS is an antisemitic movement that promulgates hate and has direct links to terrorist organizations,” said Arsen Ostrovsky, executive director of the Israeli Jewish Congress. “Given the painful history of German banks in the past, including in the [enabling] of crimes committed during the Holocaust, no German financial institution should today in any way be aiding and abetting BDS groups by providing financing in order to enable them to promote the boycott of the Jewish state and Jewish institutions.”
 
Charles Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, told the Post, “Israel is a diverse society, a free-market economy, an entrepreneurial wonderland. Why would a bank, even one claiming to be a socially moral one, want to do business with a group that opposes such a robust social and economic environment? Surely the bank understands that BDS fails to contribute to peace. It is economically perilous to Palestinians, as the tactic merely works to coerce businesses operating in West Bank industrial parks to close, costing countless jobs to people who cry out for employment.”


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