Israel urges German bank to stop enabling 'antisemitic BDS movement'

The bank initially closed the account of the group in December 2016 because it failed to meet the bank’s ethical standards and stoked antisemitism, according to statement posted on the bank website.

Protesters hold abanner that reads "Boycott Israel" during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET)
Protesters hold abanner that reads "Boycott Israel" during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris
Minister Gilad Erdan demanded that a German bank close an account that enables an anti-Zionist organization to raise funds to boycott the Jewish state and spread antisemitism.
“As minister of strategic affairs, I am leading an international campaign to defend Israel from the BDS movement’s hateful attacks against Israel’s right to exist. This stance against BDS has been adopted by our close friends in Germany, including the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] and municipalities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. I call on the Bank for Social Economy to join the many German institutions, leaders and citizens who are uniting to reject the discriminatory and antisemitic boycott movement against Israel,” Erdan told The Jerusalem Post last Sunday.
The Bank for Social Economy (Bank für Sozialwirtschaft) operates an account for the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. In response to Jerusalem’s January ban on entry to Israel of representatives of 20 organizations that advocate a boycott of the Jewish state, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East wrote in an open letter to Erdan: “Among the list of banned organizations is our sister organization Jewish Voice for Peace in the US, with whom we share many values and political goals, and for whom we have the highest regard.”
The US-based Jewish Voice for Peace hosted the convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh at its spring 2017 conference in Chicago. The head of the NGO said at the time that JVP was “honored to hear from her.”
Odeh, a former member of the US- and EU-classified terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was responsible for a 1969 bombing that murdered two students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe, in a Jerusalem supermarket. She pleaded guilty in 2017 to US naturalization fraud and was deported in September to Jordan because she had lied about her terrorism conviction when she entered the US.
UWE BECKER, the deputy mayor of Frankfurt and the city’s treasurer, told the Post: The Bank for Social Economy “is totally wrong” in accepting the explanation of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East regarding the BDS movement. In contrast to what the NGO claims, “the real aim of the antisemitic boycott movement is of course the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
Leading representatives and supporters of the BDS movement have often declared that their aim is the end of the Jewish state.
And of course, the means that BDS uses are not peaceful, they are violent as they permanently try to intimidate universities, scientists, companies, artists, politicians etc. not to cooperate in any field with partners from Israel or to reconsider visiting the country.”
Becker added that for that reason, the Bank for Social Economy should reconsider its “wrong evaluation” and cease its business connection with Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East as long as it supports the “antisemitic BDS movement.”
Becker announced last week that the Frankfurt Municipality will not do business with banks that support or do business with BDS groups.
It is unclear if the Bank for Social Economy conducts business with Frankfurt. Stephanie Rüth, a spokeswoman for the bank, declined to comment on its activities in Frankfurt. She told the Post that nearly a year ago, the bank reopened the account of the German group Jewish Voice after “intensively dealing with the topic of support for the BDS campaign.” She said that only under certain conditions was the account for Jewish Voice permitted.
The bank wrote in a statement on its website that “Jewish Voice said that the group’s support of BDS is free from violence... and not against the existence of the State of Israel.”
The bank initially closed the account of Jewish Voice in December 2016, because it failed to meet the bank’s ethical standards and stokes antisemitism, according to statement posted on its website at the time.
The Cologne-based bank said the decisive reason for the closure was that 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.”
Post queries to Harald Schmitz, the chairman of the bank, were not specifically answered regarding the bank’s reopening of the BDS account.
The prominent organization Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany, which maintains an account with the Bank for Social Economy, will seek to use its influence against the bank’s anti-Israel activity. Benjamin Bloch, the Central Welfare Board’s executive director, told the Post.
“The transnational BDS movement pursues the goal of one-sided demonization, delegitimization and isolation of the state of Israel with double standards. The [Central Welfare Board] considers the BDS campaign Israel-related antisemitism. The [board] will continue to make use of its influence to actively confront the BDS campaign,” Bloch said.
The board declined to say if it planned to terminate its account with the Bank for Social Economy. Central Welfare Board representative Michael Warman has a seat on the bank’s board of directors. Warman declined to respond to a Post interview request. Vivian Katz, a spokeswoman for the Central Welfare Board, told the Post: “Mr. Warman only represents the [board] in a control function [at the bank]. He has nothing to do with the daily business of the bank.”
BERLIN’S JEWISH COMMUNITY, Germany’s largest with a membership of more than 10,000, has an account with the Bank for Social Economy. Ilan Kiesling, a spokesman for the community, told the Post the Jewish community works to combat the “activities of the antisemitic BDS movement.” He said the community’s commissioner on antisemitism told a Berlin State Senate committee meeting in January that Berlin’s government should follow the example of Munich by not financing BDS or BDS-affiliated organizations.
When asked whether the Jewish community plans to close its account, Kiesling declined to comment.
Announcements of European and American banks and online payment services closing BDS accounts are made every few months. The US online payment service PayPal closed the account of the pro-boycott France-Palestine Solidarity Association on January 26. The association was on Israel’s list of 20 banned-from-entry BDS organizations.
After a Post exposé last year, Deutsche Bank and its subsidiary Deutsche Postbank shut down all of their accounts held by the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany. The Marxist-Leninist Party campaigned during the 2017 federal election along with the Palestinian terrorist organization PFLP.
In 2016, Commerzbank – Germany’s second largest bank – closed the account of a BDS website.
The French-owned DAB bank in Munich terminated its account with the German organization BDS Campaign in 2016.
The closures of Israel-boycott bank accounts across Europe, including in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Austria, suggest a growing consensus that BDS presents a dangerous business for banks.