Activists from the BDS movement against Israel [File].
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Irish senators attacked Israel with accusations of apartheid during a parliamentary debate in late November about the closure of the bank account of a BDS group, prompting criticism on Friday from the Jewish state and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“What has happened with Bank of Ireland is very sinister. We have a foreign apartheid state interfering directly to pressurise a bank that was bailed out by our taxpayers to close an account to try to undermine this organization,” said Sen. Paul Gavan, from the Sinn Féin party.
Israel’s embassy told The Jerusalem Post
on Friday: “Regarding the debate in the Irish Senate a few weeks ago in which only a very small number of senators participated, it was unfortunate to see such one-sided bias against Israel and a number of inaccurate accusations made about Israel.”
The members of the Irish upper house are not directly elected, and the legislative body has considerably less lawmaking power than the lower house, the Assembly.
The Senate debate was initiated by Sen. David Norris, an independent lawmaker, who said he was contacted by the Dublin-based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign because the Bank of Ireland pulled the plug on the group’s accounts.
IPSC advocates for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
Norris said during the debate, “This is a worldwide phenomenon. A German bank recently closed the accounts of a German Jewish organization, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, at the instigation of the Israeli government. Here is another case of the infringement of people’s freedom of speech and solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
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The German Bank for Social Economy announced on its website last week that it terminated the account of the pro-boycott group Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East because BDS is antisemitic and violates the bank’s ethical standards.
Sen. Frances Black, also an independent, said during the debate, “The closure of the [IPSC] bank account is believed to be due to the Israeli government exerting pressure on banks to close the accounts of organizations that advocate the boycott of Israeli goods.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, told the Post
on Sunday: “This is a typical case of presenting false information about the State of Israel.”
Zuroff, who heads the Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, said the accusations are “very far from reality. There is no truth to the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state. The sad part is such lies are accepted by people who are simply ignorant or naïve and make decisions based on false information.”
Zuroff, a leading expert in contemporary antisemitism, said there is “no question that the BDS movement is a new form of antisemitism. There is no debate in the Irish Senate about the executions of homosexuals in Iran or the restrictions of the rights of women in Saudi Arabia. They [the senators] are picking on Israel and using double standards against the only democracy in the Middle East and the only country where human rights are protected in the region.”
The Israeli Embassy in Dublin said: “We have no comment to make on the operations of Bank of Ireland or any other Irish bank as that is an internal matter for them.”
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign told the Irish media the bank closed its accounts because it defined transfers to Palestinian territories as high-risk.
A spokesman for the Bank of Ireland told the Post in October that it “cannot comment in relation to customer accounts.”
Writing on the mena-watch website in October, the German journalist Stefan Frank, who has written extensively on modern antisemitism, said the IPSC’s “Israeli Blood Diamonds Campaign” is an expression of Jew-hatred.
IPSC’s language is filled with “the repertoires of classical antisemitism (blood and poison imagery) as well as the new antisemitism (apartheid label),” Frank wrote.
After Shimon Peres died in September, ISPC wrote on its website that he was an “unpunished war criminal and apologist for apartheid.”
Sen. Alice-Mary Higgins, an independent, said during the debate, “We must agree with the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’s conclusion that its firm support for boycott, divestment and sanctions in respect of Israel is the reason for the closure of the account.”
She cited Post articles, saying, “It is hard to escape this conclusion given the trend across Europe whereby banks have closed the accounts of organizations supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Groups in Germany, France, Austria and the UK have faced similar closures.”
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