April 6, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post
Exclusive: New York politician’s anti-BDS law would penalize German, Austrian banks
A prominent Democratic New York state assemblyman, who introduced an anti-Boycott Israel bill in the state legislature, urged on Tuesday a group of German and Austrian banks based in NYC to terminate their accounts with BDS groups to stop the spread of anti-Semitism and avoid legal action.
“The New York legislation would certainly adversely affect those banks. In a time of crisis that is growing more acute by the day, Americans and New Yorkers want to stand with our strategic democratic ally Israel and against hatred peddled by the BDS movement,” Assemblyman Charles Lavine told The Jerusalem Post.
The Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment movement (BDS) seeks to punish Israel with sanctions in order to secure concessions for the Palestinians.
Lavine added “DAB discontinued a BDS account and other major banks should discontinue their relationship with purveyors of hate and anti-Semitism.”
The Post reported in February that the Munich-based DAB bank pulled the plug on the BDS-Campaign group's DAB account in Germany. New York State is gearing up to pass robust anti-BDS legislation that would outlaw state business with companies or individuals who are involved in BDS.
A bill barring state contracts with businesses conducting deals with BDS activity passed the Senate in January. Two German banks and one Austrian bank are mired in the BDS anti-Semitism row: The Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (BW) in Stuttgart, the Commerzbank in Frankfurt and the Austrian Erste Group bank in Vienna.
The BW's role in enabling a BDS account for a hardcore anti-Israel group– Palestine Committee Stuttgart–that is involved with a Palestinian speaker, who played down the Holocaust and compared Israel to Nazi Germany, triggered a sharp response from Israel's embassy.
“We consider this case seriously and looking into the legal options available to us,” Adi Farjon, the embassy's spokeswoman told the Post on Monday. Germany has anti-Holocaust denial and anti-hate incitement laws.
The Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta spoke at a Palestine Committee Stuttgart on Saturday.
According to a MEMRI translation, Abu Sitta told Egyptian Dream2 TV channel on February 14, 2015: “Under the clout of the sword of the Holocaust, which has become a means to inflame the world's conscience, Israel managed to establish its state. Even though decades have passed, Israel is still extorting the world by means of this notion. The revelations that my guest today has made come as a surprise to many: The same country that has extorted the world with its 'holocausts' in Nazi Germany – which was not directed only against the Jews – has perpetrated, and perhaps still is perpetrating, its own holocausts in the Palestinian lands.” Abu Sitta served on the Palestine National Council for 20 years.
Abu Sitta also said, “I found that the Israelis used the same [Nazi] methods on the Palestinians. They had the necessary experience, because the Nazi camps were shut down only three years earlier.”
Bärbel Illi, a representative from the German-Israel friendship society in Stuttgart and Mittlerer Neckar, told the Post “We are seriously disappointed that our bank, the BW bank Stuttgart,apparently refuses to to close the account of the Palestine Committee Stuttgart. We made the bank aware that the Committee wants to damage Israel and that it contests Israel's right to exist.
Nevertheless, the BW bank rejected to talk with us about the scandal because of alleged protection of data.”
Illi termed Abu Sitta, the historian who spoke at the Palestine Committee Stuttgart event, a “Holocaust denier.” The friendship society uncovered the anti-Israel Sitta talk.
Should the BW not shut down the Palestine Committee Stuttgart bank account, Illi said the German Israel Friendship society will cancel its BW account.
Post email queries to the Palestine Committee Stuttgart were not immediately returned.
In February, Rüdiger Schoß, a spokesman for BW, told the Post that the Palestine Committee Stuttgart account “belongs to an association which is allowed in Germany and nothing spoke, therefore, against the wish to open the account.”
After the allegation that Palestine Committee Stuttgart trafficked in playing down the Holocaust by sponsoring Abu Sitta, as well as the proposed anti-BDS law in New York State, the BW in New York City and Stuttgart did not immediately answer multiple Jerusalem Post press and telephone queries.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post “It is intolerable that BW would facilitate any dealings of an organization devoted more to hatred of Jews that helping a single Palestinian.”
Commerzbank's New York representative Martin Preissler did not immediately respond to Post queries. Commerzbank paid in 2015 US financial regulators a $1.45 billion fine as part of its illicit dealings with Iran. Commerzbank holds an account for an obscure BDS website and magazine.
Sandra Peterson, the Erste Group's New York representative, declined to comment. Erste Group holds the account for BDS-Austria which sponsors the “Israel Apartheid Week” events in Vienna.
Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.