U.S. Senators urge German bank to stop enabling BDS campaign

Two powerful US Republican senators, both of whom ran significant campaigns for the presidency of America in 2016, weighed in on Thursday against a German bank for aiding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio told The Jerusalem Post that “The BDS movement, with its thinly-veiled antisemitic agenda, is engaged in economic warfare against the Jewish State of Israel. I urge our allies in Europe to ensure that European financial institutions do not enable boycotts against the Jewish state or provide indirect support to any pro-BDS organization, especially ones with connections to Palestinian terrorists.”

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The Germany-based Bank for Social Economy provides at least four accounts to organizations that promote BDS, including one entity that has links to an American group that has praised a convicted terrorist from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The US and the EU both classify the PFLP as a terrorist organization.

In a statement to the Post, a spokesman for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, said that “The anti-Israel boycott movement is built on antisemitism and lies, and seeks to destroy Israel. Many US states, including Texas, have quite rightly passed legislation to combat BDS – and those laws seem to be having their intended effects. Unfortunately, we must continue to do even more to combat growing antsemitism abroad, amid increasing calls to destroy Israel.”

Prominent German Jewish organizations and activists expressed outrage over the Cologne-based bank’s decision to strengthen the BDS campaign against Israel.

Rubio and Cruz joined a lengthy list of Jewish groups in the US, Germany and Europe calling on the bank to sever ties with the BDS movement. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan urged the bank to pull the plug on its pro-BDS business in February.

Numerous Post press queries to the bank’s CEO Harald Schmitz were not returned.

DR. ELIO ADLER, head of the prominent German Jewish organization Values Initiative, told the Post that “if one wants to fight against antisemitism, this means having to abandon familiar ways. This includes painful things like businesses, banks and companies having to examine their economic ties. And if they are cooperating with antisemites, they must end the cooperation as fast as possible. Here, we would expect this from the Bank for Social Economy because it is recognized that BDS simply has antisemitic backgrounds.”

Adler added that “the excuse that one did not know what those [BDS] organizations are and what intentions and backgrounds stand behind [them] is no longer valid… For the Bank for Social Economy that concretely means to end business relations with the groups that support BDS.”

Malca Goldstein-Wolf, a German Jewish activist who campaigns against BDS, tweeted on Sunday: “PayPal positions itself consistently against BDS, closing their accounts. The Cologne bank Bank für Sozialwirtschaft [Bank for Social Economy] acts deaf and still continues to work with antisemitic organizations. What a disgrace!”

The giant US online-payment service PayPal has closed five French BDS organization accounts since January.

Goldstein-Wolf – who earned the ire of the pro-BDS musician Roger Waters for convincing a German broadcaster not to air his concerts in the federal republic because of Waters’ alleged antisemitism – has written letters to the bank’s CEO Schmitz, urging him to crack down on BDS. He has not responded to her letters.

GERMAN ORGANIZATIONS have cut their business ties with the bank because of its anti-Israel activities. The Post reported in June that Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal – the premier Israeli public global organization fundraising to advance the security of the Jewish state – announced that its German branch will wind down business with the Bank for Social Economy because it enables BDS. In April, the LGBT organization Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation said it will terminate its account with the bank.

When asked about Adler’s criticism, the new head of the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany, Arno Schuster, declined to comment. Schuster, whose father is head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, further declined to answer Post questions about whether the board will divest its ownership shares from the bank.

The largest local Jewish community in Germany – in the capital of Berlin – maintains an account with the Bank for Social Economy. The president of the community, Gideon Joffe, also declined to answer multiple Post queries.

The bank works closely with the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. The Germany-based group called the US organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) its “sister organization.” JVP hosted the convicted PFLP terrorist Rasmea Odeh at its spring 2017 conference in Chicago. Odeh was responsible for a 1969 bombing that murdered students Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe in a Jerusalem supermarket.

The head of the NGO said at the time that JVP was “honored to hear from her.” The organization is barred from entering Israel.

The city treasurer and deputy mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, told the Post in April that the bank is banned from doing business with the city because of Frankfurt’s anti-BDS policy.

The human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center is seriously considering including  Schmitz and the other top two managers of the bank, Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis, in its 2018 list of the top-ten worst outbreaks of antisemitic and anti-Israel activity.