German bank enables group to boycott Israel Embassy sponsorship of event

The Bank for Social Economy – a German financial institution that holds the most number of BDS accounts in the country – is permitting a boycott-Israel group to raise funds to boot Israel from sponsoring an August pop culture festival as well as urge the federal government to expel Israel’s ambassador from Berlin because of the Gaza conflict.

The extremist German-based BDS group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East wrote on its website on May 9 expressing “solidarity with the Palestinian call to renew a boycott of the Pop Culture Festival until the support of the Israeli Embassy is dropped.” On Friday, Jewish Voice called on Germany’s government to expel Israel’s Ambassador to Berlin Jeremy Issacharoff and stop weapons deliveries to the Jewish state.

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BDS is an abbreviation for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targeting Israel.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, “The announcement by this quote-unquote ‘Jewish group’ of a boycott of an Israeli supported cultural event – not political event – as well as their call for Germany to expel Israel’s ambassador shreds any supposed agreement that the Bank for Social Economy would not be involved in boycott activity. Such an agreement was not worth the email it was written on.”

Cooper added, “Jewish Voice exists only to delegitimize and demonize Israel, and the bank knows it. Despite this new development, the bank allows its services to be used by these [BDS] groups. The bank is knowingly facilitating boycotts of Israel. As a result, if that remains the bank’s policy, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urges all Jewish institutions and individual Jewish depositors to leave the bank and take their business elsewhere.”

In April, the Post reported exclusively that the German LGBT organization the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation – named after the Jewish founder of the modern gay movement who was persecuted by the Nazis – pulled the plug on its account with the Bank for Social Economy because of its BDS activity.

In an February statement to the Post, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on the Bank for Social Economy to terminate its business relationship with BDS groups.

Harald Schmitz, the chairman of the bank, and his two deputies, Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis, did not respond to numerous Post media queries.

The Berlin-based “Pop-Kultur is an international festival and runs from August 15 to 17 in Berlin,” according to its website and “is based on three elemental foundations: 1. Live (Music, Talks, Readings, Exhibitions and films) 2. Pop-Kultur young talent 3. Networking.”

After BDS groups mounted a campaign against Israel’s sponsorship of the Pop Cultural festival in August 2017, musicians from Egypt, Syria and Tunisia withdrew from the event. Israel is one of scores of sponsors of the event along with the city of Berlin. Klaus Lederer, who oversees the city’s cultural agency, said at the time the “call to boycott the festival with fake news about an alleged co-financing of the festival by the State of Israel is disgusting and appalls me.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is considering the inclusion of three senior executives of the German Bank for Social Economy (BFS) on its list of the top 10 worst cases of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity in 2018 because of the bank’s aggressive enabling of the BDS campaign targeting the Jewish state.

Israel’s embassy told the Post last year regarding the boycott call of its sponsorship of the festival: “Unfortunately there are people who believe that it’s possible today in Germany that artists can be pushed to boycott cultural events only because there is an Israeli cultural participation. Israel advocates culture in Germany, cooperations and dialogue in general – something that the supporters of this boycott do not strive for.”

The embassy added, “These people demand that artists in Germany stand against Israel. This hurts, first and foremost, the cultural scene in Berlin. We regret attempts to muzzle people and that the German society are deprived of cultural inputs by this.”

A Post media query on Friday to Adi Farjon was not immediately returned.

“We condemn the leaders of any bank that continues to allow BFS to do business with those who work to damage and ultimately do away with the Jewish state,” Rabbi Cooper told the Post. The city of Frankfurt’s anti-BDS law will bar business with the Bank for Social Economy, the city’s deputy mayor Uwe Becker told the Post in April.