‘Post’ exposé leads to closure of BDS group’s bank account in Germany

Iris Hefets, spokeswoman for Jewish Voice, confirmed that the bank pulled the plug on the group’s account because Jewish Voice refused to stop promoting the BDS campaign against Israel.

June 21, 2019 14:32
3 minute read.
Anti-Israel Germany

Demonstrators take part in a pro-Palestine march in Berlin January 10, 2009. More that 6000 people shouted anti-Israel slogans to protest against the air strikes and the military action in the Gaza Strip, police said on Saturday. (photo credit: REUTERS/PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI)

After a series of Jerusalem Post investigative reports on the bank account of the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, the German Bank for Social Economy closed the organization’s account on Thursday.

Iris Hefets, spokeswoman for Jewish Voice, confirmed to the left-wing daily taz that the bank pulled the plug on the group’s account because Jewish Voice refused to stop promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that it is a “welcome development and an important decision not only domestically, but will impact on the global struggle to expose and defeat antisemitic BDS campaigns.”

The Wiesenthal Center included the bank in its 2018 top 10 list of worst outbreaks of antisemitism.

Hefets told taz, a publication sympathetic to pro-BDS media coverage, that the account was closed due to “political reasons” and said it was “political censorship.” The formal closure of the account will take place by the end of this week, wrote the paper.

The Post previously reported that Hefets, who is Israeli, held a sign at an anti-Israel rally declaring: “Führer of Israel to the international court.” She compared the title of Adolf Hitler – “Führer” (leader) – with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jewish Voice’s account with the bank was first exposed by the Post in 2016. The bank terminated the account in November of that year, but reopened it in 2017 after a campaign from pro-BDS and pro-Palestinian activists.

Josef Schuster, the president of the nearly 100,000 member Central Council of Jews in Germany, termed Jewish Voice an “antisemitic association” in February. The closure of the account follows a May German parliament resolution declaring BDS antisemitic.

Scores of German, Israeli and American politicians heaped pressure on the bank to end its business with Jewish Voice.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told the Post last year: “I am leading an international campaign to defend Israel from the BDS movement’s hateful attacks against Israel’s right to exist. This stance against BDS has been adopted by our close friends in Germany, including the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] and municipalities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. I call on the Bank for Social Economy to join the many German institutions, leaders and citizens who are uniting to reject the discriminatory and antisemitic boycott movement against Israel.”

Post queries to Jewish Voice and the Bank for Social Economy were not immediately returned.

Two US senators and former presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, also urged the bank to close the Jewish Voice account. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell also demanded that all German financial institutions cut ties with BDS organizations.

Three commissioners tasked with combating antisemitism in Germany – Felix Klein, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger and Uwe Becker – called on the bank to shut the account of Jewish Voice.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, the Berlin Jewish community and the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany – a part-owner of the Bank for Social Economy – urged Harald Schmitz, CEO of the bank, to end business with Jewish Voice.

The bank suffered a loss of business  due to its account with the BDS group.

In September 2018, the German branch of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal terminated its account with the bank to protest the financial institution’s business with Jewish Voice. German LGBT organization Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation also closed its account to show displeasure with the bank’s refusal to end business with the BDS group.

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