Dieter Graumann, head of Germany's Jewish community and vice president of the Jewish World Congress, stands next to a banner during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Frankfurt, August 31, 2014.
(photo credit: KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS)
The shocking reversal of the Bank for Social Economy’s decision to close the account of an allegedly antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) group sparked the human rights group Simon Wiesenthal Center to call on the financial institution’s customers to end business relations with the bank.
The Jerusalem Post reported last week that Dr. Josef Schuster, head of the nearly 100,000-member Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy (BSE – Bank für Sozialwirtschaft) intends to close the account of the association Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Near East because of its support for the BDS movement.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany “classifies Jewish Voice as antisemitic.”
The bank’s spokeswoman, Katharina Rieger, in an email on Wednesday, denied Schuster’s statement, writing, “This statement is not correct. There has been no change in the decision of the bank.”
Responding to the bank’s decision to stick with the account of the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post: “BDS was never designed to help Palestinians. It has the goal of demonizing Israel and harming the world’s largest Jewish community. Should any German institution provide it services? If the bank insists yes, then we can only hope that fair-minded Germans opposed to antisemitism will stop doing business with this bank.”
When asked in a Post email if the bank lied to him, Schuster did not answer.
As a result of allegations of antisemitism against Jewish Voice, the mayor of Göttingen, a university city in Lower Saxony; the bank Sparkasse in Göttingen; and Göttingen University pulled the plug on their participation in a peace prize event for Jewish Voice in March. It is unclear if the 3,000 euro award has been transferred to the Bank for Social Economy account for Jewish Voice.
The bank ranked number seven on the Wiesenthal Center’s 2018 top 10 list of worst outbreaks of antisemitism.
ON FRIDAY, Uwe Becker, the mayor and city treasurer of the German city of Frankfurt, told the Post that “in its newly published report ‘Terrorists in Suits,’ the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs shows direct links between the antisemitic BDS movement and its affiliated groups and terrorism, another strong reason why BDS should be forbidden in Germany and Europe-wide. It is time to act.
“No other antisemitic group in recent years has been able to hide its own anti-Israeli attitude behind the façade of a self-styled human rights organization as imaginatively as the anti-Israeli BDS movement, which has been calling for nearly two decades for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against the Jewish state,” he added. Becker passed an order last year to ban city business with bank that enable BDS. The Bank for Social Economy ignored his appeal to reconsider their providing an account to a BDS group.
Becker said that: “With its messages, the BDS movement uses the same language that National Socialists once used to express: ‘Don’t buy from Jews,’” adding that “The BDS campaign, with its criticism of Israel reaching deep into the foundation of the legitimation of the Jewish state, chooses the detour via anti-Zionism to arrive at antisemitism. The BDS movement is thus a deeply antisemitic movement.”
“It is overdue that the Bank for Social Economy finally take the consequences and close the account of the Jewish Voice,” Schuster said last month. “For months now, the bank’s executive board has beat around the bush about this issue.”
“There can be no compromise on antisemitism,” he added.
Dr. Elvira Grözinger, head of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle, told the Post that “I absolutely agree” with the Wiesenthal call to stop business with the Bank for Social Economy, adding, “All fair-minded institutions and NGOs must cut their ties with them.”
The German Jewish anti-BDS activist Malca Goldstein-Wolf said, “It is inexplicable that the [BSE] ignored the clear statement of the antisemitism Commissioner of the Federal Government, Dr. Felix Klein, against Jewish Voice.”
“The business relationship with hatred of the Jews seems so important to the [BSE] that it not only snubs the Central Council of Jews, but also ruins its own reputation,” she said. “Is it really worth it? What is behind it?”
A Post email to Aron Schuster, the director of the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany (ZWST), a part owner of the bank, was not returned regarding whether ZWST will divest from the Bank for Social Economy. Schuster has failed to convince the bank’s board of directors to terminate the account of the Jewish Voice.
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