December 20, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post

German politicians ignore bank’s BDS account

Co-written by Tamara Zieve.

German politicians affiliated with the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) in southern Germany ignore the financial institution’s role in punishing Israel’s economy with a BDS account, a leading anti-boycott activist says.

“All these [BDS] initiatives harm Israel and contribute to an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state. They are a negative element which is rooted in antisemitism,” Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

Zuroff, who runs the Jerusalem office of the center, added “Any effort to close down accounts like this are to be welcomed and encouraged.”

Prominent German Jews have called on the LBBW and other German banks to pull the plug on BDS accounts.

Charlotte Knobloch, the head of Munich’s Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, told the Post, “I advocate that anti-Israeli groups and organizations have no possibility to keep accounts with respectable German banks.”

The Palestine Committee Stuttgart uses its LBBW account to promote a comprehensive boycott against the Jewish state.

The bank has declined to take action against the account since the controversy surfaced in February.

Last week, the Bank for Social Economy announced its termination of a BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) account targeting Israel because of BDS antisemitism and the account not meeting the financial institution’s ethical standards.

In response to the closure of the BDS account by the Bank for Social Economy – along with Commerzbank’s shutting down an account in June – Dr. Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Post on Friday: “The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomes the decision of several banks to close the accounts of BDS groups, in order to show protest and distance themselves from this movement.”

The city of Stuttgart, where the LBBW is situated in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, owns nearly 20% of the bank. The state owns nearly 25% of the bank.

Stuttgart Mayor Fritz Kuhn has a seat on the supervisory board of the LBBW. Kuhn’s spokesman, Sven Matis, told the Post that Kuhn does not participate in the destabilization of Israel. “This was never the case, is not the case and will never be the case.”

Benjamin Hechler, a spokesman for the Finance Ministry in Baden-Württemberg, told the Post that the ministry does not wish to make a “political content assessment.” He added that “a denial of a bank account is legally possible when, according to German law, objective impediments are present – for example sanctions violations and calls to violence or a documented denial of the Holocaust.”

An anti-Israel activist with ties to the terrorist organization Hamas spoke at a Palestine Committee Stuttgart event in May. The activist, who is a member the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East, also spoke at the 13th Palestinians in Europe Conference in the German capital in April 2015.

Germany’s best-selling newspaper, Bild, headlined its article on the 2015 event: “The Hamas conference in Berlin.” The London- based Palestinian Return Center, a Hamas affiliate, sponsored the conference.

The Bank for Social Economy terminated the Jewish Voice account in early December.

Commerzbank shut down the account of the activist’s anti-Israel website magazine in June.

A Post press query to the Green Party politican ,Edith Sitzmann, who is a member of the LLBW’s supervisory board, was not immediately returned.

Benjamin Weinthal is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.