Exclusive: PayPal closes account of French BDS organization

France has one of the most robust anti-BDS laws in Europe.

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
The US online payment company PayPal closed the account of one of France’s most powerful boycott Israel organizations – the France-Palestine Solidarity Association – The Jerusalem Post learned on Friday.
As part of an investigative series into funding streams for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions organizations targeting Israel, the Post had asked PayPal on Tuesday: Is the association’s account with PayPal in violation of France’s anti-discrimination law? Is the account in violation of PayPal’s anti-hate policy? France has one of the most robust anti-BDS laws in Europe, the Lellouche Law, which bans discrimination based on national origin.
Paul Furia, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, told the Post that “I can’t comment specifically on the AFPS [the France-Palestine Solidarity Association] PayPal account, nor speak on behalf of the company to tell you whether or not the account should be canceled.
“However, I want to point out that calling to boycott of Israel is indeed illegal in France. Several decisions of the highest criminal court [the Cour de Cassation] confirmed that calling to boycott breaks the law and constitutes an ‘incitation to discrimination or hate based on national origin or religion.’” A PayPal representative told the Post on Friday: “Due to customer confidentiality, we cannot comment on the details of any specific PayPal account. However, we would like to stress that PayPal has zero tolerance for the use of our secure payments platform to facilitate illegal activities. We make every effort to comply with laws and regulations around the world. Compliance with these laws is something we take very seriously. We carefully review questionable activities reported to us, and discontinue our relationship with account holders found to violate our policies.”
After a Post 2016 exposé of another BDS organization – Campagne BDS France – PayPal and banking giant Credit Mutuel closed the group’s accounts amid escalating criticism over its illegal practices.
The Israeli government published in early January a list of 20 BDS organizations, which included Campagne BDS France and the France-Palestine Solidarity Association, that are banned from entering the Jewish state. Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said at the time: “The boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act against them and not allow them entry to harm our citizens,” adding, “No nation would have permitted entry to critics coming to harm the country.”
The France-Palestine Solidarity Association said, “The members of France-Palestine Solidarity Association are attached to the right of peoples to self-determination and to the defense of the individual. Their purpose is to develop solidarity with the Palestinian people and to support them particularly in their fight for the fulfillment of their national rights.”
According to a January 2017 report by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, the France-Palestine Solidarity Association “does not publish financial information, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability,” and the association “receives government funding from the French government through different governmental bodies.”
The French Development Agency gave the association €320,000 for 2017-2019, NGO Monitor wrote.
NGO Monitor documented the France-Palestine Solidarity Association’s anti-Israel and allegedly antisemitic language, including calling the Gaza Strip an “extermination camp” due to the “criminal Israeli government – and all those who support it... the small ‘angels of death’ who are sheltered there to continue their experiments and envision the ‘final solution.’” THE ASSOCIATION accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and calls for it to “Stop hunting Palestinian children!” wrote NGO Monitor. The NGO Monitor research document provides links to the association’s website in connection with its anti-Israel rhetoric.
The France-Palestine Solidarity Association terms Israel’s West Bank security barrier an “apartheid” wall.
According to the association, Israeli policies “institutionalize a military and colonial domination over the Palestinian people in order to exploit them and make them disappear as a people, by decomposing it, transferring its population and/or forcing it to exile. This matches the notion of ‘sociocide.’” NGO Monitor wrote that the association legitimizes the use of armed struggle as a means for Palestinian liberation and states that Israel “deploys a state terrorism in the name of preventive war.”
French MP Meyer Habib told the Post on Thursday: “According to Article 225-2 of French Criminal Code, French law prohibits all forms of call for economic boycott ‘on the basis of race, religion or national origin.’” He added that “the jurisprudence of the French Court of Cassation of October 20, 2015, is perfectly clear in this matter as well. This rule applies to all economic players, including banks. In the light of the above, Credit Mutuel closed BDS France’s account in May 2016.
“Truly, AFPS [the France-Palestine Solidarity Association] is part of the BDS movement and promotes discrimination against Israelis because of their national origin. Under the cover of charitable activities for the Palestinian people, they try to circumvent national anti-discrimination regulation in order to promote boycott and hatred of Israel,” he said.
Habib continued, “As a French MP, representing the 150,000 French nationals residing in Israel, I fight fiercely against all forms of hatred toward Israel.
“Generally speaking, I am absolutely certain that anti-Zionism is the new face of antisemitism. I believe that AFPS’s real activity must be unmasked, and that its bank accounts should be closed in accordance with the law.”
Marc A. Greendorfer, the head of the US-based Zachor Legal Institute, which combats BDS activity, filed a complaint with PayPal on Tuesday for providing accounts to the France-Palestine Solidarity Association and the German neo-Nazi organization The Third Way.
“On behalf of Zachor Legal Institute, a civil rights legal foundation, we would like to report two violations of your acceptable use policy,” Greendorfer wrote.
“The accounts for the entities listed below violate the AUP, as they promote hate and racial intolerance. Each of these accounts promotes antisemitism and national origin discrimination through their promotion of the so-called ‘Boycott, Sanction, Divestment’ movement that targets Israel and those of Israeli origin. Please advise us of your position on this report,” he wrote.
The France-Palestine Solidarity Association did not immediately respond to Post queries.