November 17, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post

German Jewish NGOs urge bank to close BDS account

Germany's largest local Jewish community in Berlin called for the Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (Bank for Social Economy) on Monday to shut down an account held by the bank with a hardcore anti-Zionist organization targeting Israel with a boycott.

Dr. Gideon Joffe, chairman of Berlin’s 11,000-plus member Jewish community, expects to soon “have a discussion with the management of the Bank for Social Economy to sensitize the management for the topic, with the goal to close accounts from Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions],” Ilan Kiesling, a spokesman for the community, told The Jerusalem Post.

The Berlin Jewish community has an account with the Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy. In May, Joffe provided the Bundestag with a white paper on the “antisemitic BDS movement” and has published extensive education material in its magazine and on its website for members.

The pro-BDS group holding an account with the Bank for Social Economy is named “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” and is the German branch of  European Jews for a Just Peace.

Lala Süsskind, chairwoman of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Antisemitism (JFDA) in Germany, told the Post, while she cannot dictate what services the Bank for Social Economy provides, she was “aware of the fact that the bank services ‘Jewish Voice’,” and added, “I would stop my account there.”

In a second statement JFDA wrote, “That Jewish Voice describes itself as Jewish does not mean that there are no antisemites” with the group. “Jewish Voice was already always used by antisemites to lend expression to their antisemitic resentments.”

Sarah Singer is president of the Jewish National Fund, Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (JNF-KKL) in Germany, which has an account with the Bank of Social Economy. “In the next step, we will speak to the bank. If the information is correct, it is hoped that the bank will also draw consequences from the information,” she told the Post on Wednesday.

According to their website, JNF “has been developing the land of Israel, strengthening the bond between the Jewish people and its homeland” since 1901.

The “Jewish Voice” group, which lists six members on its executive board, has targeted the JNF in Germany with economic boycott activity, including posting a photograph on its website of a banner that declares: “Stop the JNF”. Jewish Voice, widely considered a fringe group, seeks to boycott Ahava skin care products and accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” The group has protested with signs stating, “No nuclear submarines as reparation for National Socialist crimes.”

Germany has sold Israel submarines at a discount to ensure the security of the Jewish state.

Benjamin Bloch, head of the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany, which also has an account with the Bank for Social Economy, told the Post on Wednesday that the “bank is taking care of  it.” Bloch was born in Jerusalem in 1943 and played a key role in a program that sends young Israelis to Germany to help with Jewish community work.

Stephanie Rüth, a spokeswoman for the Bank for Social Economy, told the Post on Wednesday, “We cannot, on account of bank secrecy, give internal information to the public.” A source familiar with the BDS account said the Jewish Voice bank account “was closed.” The Post was not able to verify the closure.

Several queries to the Jewish Voice group were not returned.

The Commerzbank – Germany’s second largest bank – closed the account of a Jewish Voice member in June. The account was used for a website that promoted BDS and the destruction of the Jewish State. In February, the DAB-Bank in Munich pulled the plug on the account of BDS-Campaign in Germany.

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.