World’s first BDS account closure, says German bank

Boycott Israel group stokes antisemitism, violates ethics.

December 12, 2016 17:56
2 minute read.
A protester chants slogans near a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during an anti-Israel march

A protester chants slogans near a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during an anti-Israel march in Malmo. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (Bank for Social Economy) announced on Monday that it has shut down the account of a German group because it advocates a boycott against the Jewish state, fails to meet the bank’s ethical standards and stokes antisemitism.

The Cologne-based bank said the decisive reason for the closure is the anti-Israel group “Jewish Voice supports the campaign Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). This has the goal of destabilizing the State of Israel and is not compatible with the principles of the Bank for Social Economy.”

The Bank for Social Economy is the first global financial institution to explicitly state it closed an account because of BDS and connect BDS’s activities to modern antisemitism and a breach of ethics.

“The positions of the BDS campaign, in content and style, go way beyond the framework of ordinary democratic discourse,” the bank said.

The bank said it notified the hardcore anti-Zionist group “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” on December 1 that its account was terminated.

Justifying the account closure, the bank cited one of Germany’s leading academic experts on contemporary antisemitism, Dr. Samuel Salzborn, who said BDS is not interested in criticism, rather “its intention is antisemitic.”

The bank also invoked a policy paper of the Free Democratic party’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The Naumann think tank said “BDS wants to get the ball rolling, with the final goal to pull the rug out from under from the state of Israel.”

The Jerusalem Post first reported the closure of the account in November, but the bank declined to cite reasons for severing financial ties to Jewish Voice.

The group issued a statement on Wednesday, saying “The claims of the bank leadership that the BDS campaign is directed against Israel’s right to exist is something we flatly and vehemently reject as propagandistic and inaccurate.”

Jewish Voice added that BDS “is not aimed at the internationally recognized State of Israel, but is unmistakably directed toward the occupation, settlement and exclusion policies of the Israeli government.”

Jewish Voice allegedly has ties to Hamas, a US- and EU-designated terrorist organization. A Jewish Voice member spoke at the 13th Palestinians in Europe Conference in the German capital in April 2015. The conference attracted supporters of Hamas, the Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel daily reported. The London-based Palestinian Return Center sponsored the conference.

Then-defense minister Ehud Barak said in 2010 that the Return Center is an “unlawful association” because of its association with Hamas.

Germany’s best-selling newspaper, Bild, headlined its article on the 2015 event, “The Hamas conference in Berlin.”

The Palestinian Association in Germany was also a key organizer of the conference.

Writing on the website Middle East Eye on Thursday, Shir Hever, a member of Jewish Voice, said the group flatly denies the allegation that it is a “pro-Hamas” organization. Jewish Voice declined to address the charge that it has ties to Hamas on its website.

The group aims to punish the Jewish National Fund in Germany with an economic boycott, posting on its website a photograph of a banner reading “Stop the JNF.”

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