German bank Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) is pursuing in a Stuttgart city court the closure of two accounts held by a pro-Palestinian organization that supports a boycott of Israel, The Jerusalem Post can reveal.
Christian Potthoff, a spokesman for LBBW, told the Post on Friday that the “reason for the closure was and is the support of the so-called ‘BDS campaign’ (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) through the owner of the account. The BDS campaign contradicts the values for which LBBW stands.”
That was not always the case. The Post first disclosed in 2016 that LBBW provides an account to the BDS organization Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
Rabbi: Bank's statement a 180-degree shift
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, told the Post “The bank’s recent statement is a welcome 180-degree shift from their 2016 refusal to cancel the BDS account.”
Cooper added that the bank’s “statement should set a standard for all public and private institutions in Germany, Europe and in the Americas who are pressured by supporters of the antisemitic BDS movement to boycott Israel.”
Potthoff said that “The closure of the business relation corresponds to the position of the German Bundestag, which decided to take a firm stand against the BDS movement.”
Cooper added that “The LBBW decision also debunks Michael Blume, antisemitism czar [in Baden-Württemberg], who contended that the BDS account could not be closed.”
Blume is tasked with fighting antisemitism and hatred of Israel but is facing growing calls for his resignation due to his alleged defamation of the father of the IDF, Orde Wingate, as a “war criminal” and “British murderer.”
The timing of the account closures in February 2022 followed intense media coverage of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Top 10 list of worst antisemitic outbreaks in December 2021. The Palestine Committee Stuttgart secured a temporary injunction against the account closures in April 2022. LBBW’s Potthoff said the state’s court in Stuttgart will decide on the closure of the accounts.
One of the accounts titled “Park and Ride” states it sends donations to the Al-Awda hospital in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The European Union and US classify Hamas as a foreign terrorist entity.
The Palestine Committee Stuttgart opened the “Park and Ride” account in 2020. It is unclear how LBBW can ensure that funds provided to Al-Awda won’t be funneled into Hamas terrorist activities.
Indirect terror connections between Al-Awda and UHWC
There are indirect terrorism connections between Al-Awda and the UHWC, an organization affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to a report by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, the Fatah Party controlled by PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the UHWC is an “affiliate” of the PFLP. The US and EU designated the PFLP a terrorist entity.
NGO Monitor wrote: “In 2017-2018, UHWC received $953,793 from the UNOCHA [United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]” for a number of projects, including “two projects at Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza.”
Israel asserts that, “In Hamas’s world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields, in flagrant violation of international law.”
The Post sent a press query to Palestine Committee Stuttgart about its use of the LBBW account to send money to Al-Awda and the bank’s decision to pursue a closure of the organization’s bank accounts.
The committee cited a statement on its website from its Berlin lawyer Ahmed Abed, who termed it a “scandal” that the LBBW closed the organization’s account.
He added that ”It has long been clear that the 2019 Bundestag decision against BDS is not legally binding. The district court of Stuttgart declared the closure invalid and thus defended human rights and the fundamental right to freedom of association.”
The committee also blamed investigative articles in the Post for the closures of their accounts.
The Wiesenthal Center played a signficant role in drawing international attention to the role of Baden-Württemberg's government in enabling the Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
Blume, Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of Baden-Württemberg,and the state’s interior minister, Thomas Strobl, were cited in the Wiesenthal Center's seventh slot on the top ten worst outbreaks of antisemitism in 2021 for their failure to take action against the LBBW providing an account to the Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
According to the LBBW’s website, the “LBBW is owned by the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, the Savings Bank Association of Baden-Württemberg and the City of Stuttgart.
German banks' connections to terror organizations
German banks have faced criticism over the years for failing to ensure that transfers are not sent to terrorist organizations. The Post reported in 2018 that a bank in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia sent $43,720 to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Post investigative series into banks that provide accounts to BDS groups in Germany has led to the termination of accounts by the following financial institutions since 2016: Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Postbank, DAB Bank Munich and Die Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (Bank for Social Economy).
Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Charlotte Knobloch, head of Munich’s Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, urged the LBBW in 2016 to pull the plug on the Palestine Committee Stuttgart’s account.