Top German social democrat urges bank to end Israel boycott support

Engelmeier’s call for the bank to stop its BDS business is the first instance of a federal-level politician in Germany weighing in on the bank.

August 16, 2018 18:25
3 minute read.
Top German social democrat urges bank to end Israel boycott support

Michaela Engelmeier. (photo credit: OLAF KOSINSKY/SKILLSHARE.EU)


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Michaela Engelmeier, a member of the executive board of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, demanded that the Bank for Social Economy stop providing accounts to groups that support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against the Jewish state.

“My opinion is that no one, no institution, no societal group, really no one should work together with BDS or hold accounts for these antisemitic groups,” Engelmeier wrote The Jerusalem Post on Thursday in connection with a query about the Bank for Social Economy’s enabling of BDS.

The Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy is engulfed in an ever-widening anti-Israel scandal because of its defense of BDS groups which use accounts with the bank to launch economic warfare against the Jewish state.

Engelmeier’s call for the bank to stop its BDS business is the first instance of a federal-level politician in Germany weighing in on the bank.

The increase of pro-BDS activities in Germany prompted Felix Klein, the German government commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism, to write in Die Welt last week that Frankfurt sent an important signal that it will not conduct business with banks that engage in BDS activities.

Klein wrote that  “the BDS movement is antisemitic in its methods and goals.” He added that BDS’s “Don’t buy!” stickers on products from the Jewish state are “methods from the Nazi period.”

Engelmeier, who served in the Bundestag as an MP from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the bank is located, is widely considered one of Israel’s strongest political supporters in the Federal Republic. The social democratic party is a coalition partner of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.

Post media queries to the bank’s top three executives CEO Harald Schmitz and deputies Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis were not answered. The human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center announced in May that the bank’s three executives may be included in their top tend 2018 list of worst outbreaks of antisemitic and anti-Israel activity.

Dan Diker, a fellow and director of the program to counter BDS and political warfare at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told the Post “no tolerance for BDS is filtering down” to German agencies and cites. He cited the example of Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin which have banned financial support and municipal space for BDS groups.

Diker also noted that a German intelligence agency in the state of Baden Württemberg determined that a call to boycott Israeli products can be equated with the Hitler movement.

According to the May intelligence report, propaganda from the neo-Nazi party Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way) calling to boycott Israeli products “roughly recalls similar measures against German Jews by the National Socialists.” For example, on April 1, 1933, the Nazis used the economic boycott slogan, “Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews!”

Malca Goldstein-Wolf, a prominent German Jewish activist who campaigns against BDS, wrote on Twitter: “It is highly indecent behavior to administer money from Jew-haters. And it is not to be understood that the Bank for Social Economy jeopardizes its good reputation in order to support antisemitic organizations. What a shame!”

The bank works closely with the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. The Germany-based group called the US organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) its “sister organization.” JVP hosted the convicted PFLP terrorist Rasmea Odeh at its spring 2017 conference in Chicago. Odeh was responsible for a 1969 bombing that murdered students Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe in a crowded Jerusalem SuperSol supermarket.

Jewish and non-Jewish organizations are peeling away from the bank due to its hostility toward Israel. The German branch of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal said it is winding down is with business with the bank. A spokeswoman for Jewish National Fund in Germany told the Post last month: “We have called on the Bank für Sozialwirtschaft [Bank for Social Economy] to end its business relations with BDS-affiliated organizations. If the BfS does not act, we look forward to changing to another financial institution.” The German LGBT organization Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation terminated its account with the bank in April to protest the bank’s anti-Israel conduct.

In July, two powerful US Senators and former presidential candidates, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, told the Post that the Bank for Social Economy should shut down its BDS business.

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