German state commissioner against antisemitism wants BDS account closed

“Because the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg rejected the [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] campaign, I would like to speak to the state’s bank," he said.

The German flag is pictured at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, November 7, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE)
The German flag is pictured at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, November 7, 2017

The newly-appointed commission- er against antisemitism in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg said last week he will contact BW-Bank, which is jointly co-owned by the state and its capital city Stuttgart, to secure the clo- sure of a pro-BDS Palestine Committee account.


“Because the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg rejected the [Boy- cott, Divestment and Sanctions] cam- paign, I would like to speak to the state’s bank about its business relations to BDS organizations and ask them to end the relations,” wrote Dr. Michael Blume, the commissioner to combat antisemitism in the state.


Palestine Committee Stuttgart is a BDS organization in Germany that seeks to isolate the Jewish state via economic, diplomatic and cultural warfare.


Blume joins his federal counterpart, Dr. Felix Klein, in the effort to shut down BDS funding streams in the federal republic. Klein, the federal government commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism, told The Jerusalem Post in September, “BDS is decidedly antisemitic in its actions and goals.”


When asked if BDS is antisemitic, Blume told the Post, “Yes, it is. As a result, the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg commissioned me to act clearly against the BDS movement.”


The city of Stuttgart owns nearly 20% of the Stuttgart-based Baden-Württem- bergische Bank (BW-Bank). The state of Baden-Württemberg owns roughly 25% of the bank. Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of Baden-Württemberg, has not intervened to influence a change on the bank’s policy.


Green Party member Kretschmann, personally delivered in 2017 a check for €30,000 ($32,000) to a Lutheran pastor in the West Bank who, critics say, advocates the destruction of Israel.


“Mitri Raheb [the Bethlehem pastor] authored the ‘Kairos Palestine document of Christians in Palestine’... the German-Israel Friendship Society already criticized the paper at the time of its publication in 2010, because it calls for economic sanctions against Israel... and speaks out against its right to exist,” the German-Israel Friendship Society’s Stuttgart chapter wrote in a public letter to Kretschmann in 2017.


“The Palestine Committee Stuttgart has an account at the Landesbank of the German federal state of Baden-Würt- temberg,” said Dr. Elvria Groezinger, chairwoman of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. “It is an internationally operating bank owned by this state and not a private financial institution. This imposes particular ethic[al] standards which this bank seems to have neglected by keeping business ties with a group calling itself Palestine Committee, which is active as an aggressive anti-Israeli propaganda center. This violates the German raison d’etat, which includes the defense of Israel’s right to exist in security.”


“The parliament of the state of Rhein- land-Westphalia has condemned the BDS activities as antisemitic, followed by the Parliament of Baden-Württemberg, according to Dr. Blume, the commission- er against antisemitism who has recently been appointed by this state,” Groezinger added. “The bank should act according to the policy of the state it represents and close the account immediately. There is no excuse for continuing to support this unpeaceful group of people.”


The chairwoman of the German-Israel Friendship Society in Stuttgart, Bärbel Illi, told the Post that her organization closed its account with the BW-Bank two years ago because the bank refused to shut the account of the Palestinian Committee Stuttgart. The organization took the lead in the anti-BDS campaign to call for the termination of the Palestine Committee Stuttgart’s account.


A spokesman for the BW-Bank, Alexander Braun, wrote the Post by email on Monday that the BW-Bank “does not support a boycott call against the state of Israel.” He wrote the bank has an “anti-discrimination policy” and an account can only be rejected when there are legal, objective reasons.


Braun did not specifically address Post questions about whether BDS is antise- mitic, as it is according to the state’s com- missioner, nor about the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg’s rejection of BDS because it is discriminatory.


A spokesman for Stuttgart’s mayor Fritz Kuhn dodged a detailed press query about whether BDS is antisemitic, and if he favors a closure of the account since the city owns nearly 20% of the bank.


Kuhn’s spokesman told the Post the “BW-bank is responsible for the operational business.” He added that is not the responsibility of the shareholders.


Kretschmann did not immediately respond to press inquiries.


Three German intelligence reports have classified BDS as antisemitic, including Baden-Württemberg’s intelligence agen- cy, citing antisemitic BDS activity from a neo-Nazi party. The German banks, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Postbank, DAB Bank in Munich, Sparkasse Witten and the online payment service PayPal have closed the accounts of German NGOs since 2016 for promoting BDS and links to Palestinian terrorism.