May 8, 2017 | The Jerusalem Post
Exclusive: Texas Bank Shuts Out Israel Haters
The giant Dallas-based bank Comerica announced on Friday that it will close a bank account held by an anti-Israel organization that promotes boycotting the Jewish state.
“Comerica Bank has taken steps to close the account. The account closing, the result of a business decision, will occur in due course. We will have no further comment on this matter,“ Wayne Mielke, the bank’s spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post by email.
The slated termination of the account for the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, which supports the BDS movement, is believed to be the first anti-Israel bank account closed by a US-based bank.
Comercia’s decision to sever its financial relationship with the association comes three days after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law one of the country’s strongest anti-BDS laws. The Texas legislation bars state contracts with companies that support BDS. “You can always count on Texas,” Abbott said. “Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy. Texas is not going to do business with any company that boycotts Israel.” He issued his statements at a ceremony marking Israel’s Independence Day that was held at the Jewish community center in Austin.
Rep. Phil King and Sen. Brandon Creighton sponsored the legislation blunting economic warfare against the Jewish state. Texas is widely considered to be one of the most pro-Israel states in America.
A Post press query to the association was not returned. It is unclear if Comerica closed the account because financial business with the association was running afoul of the anti-BDS law or due to a possible violation of anti-terrorism laws. The association, whose headquarters are in Brussels, has a working relationship with a communist North Korean legal group and defends the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
When asked about Comerica and other BDS bank accounts in March, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Post : “Countries have already shut BDS accounts for legal reasons and we urge others to do the same.”
World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder said, “On behalf of the World Jewish Congress, I applaud Comerica for this bold and commendable decision to shut down the bank account of the virulent anti-Israel organization, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
“The IADL consistently demonizes Israel and defends those who incite against it. In penalizing the IADL, Comerica has demonstrated that it is committed to helping the state of Texas enforce its strict anti-BDS laws, and that it will have zero tolerance for any person or organization that seeks to undermine democracy or promote terror,” he added.
Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz told the Post in February that “the organization [IADL] was founded as a communist front and supported financially by the Soviet Union. It is anti-democratic to its core and supportive of terrorism and repression. No decent person or institution should be associated with or supportive of its anti-democratic agenda and actions.”
The association’s website has at least three pages devoted to criticism of Israel. During Operation Pillar of Defense to stop Hamas rocket fire in 2012, they wrote that the association “condemns illegal Israeli aggression in Gaza.”
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told the Post: “The IADL, which describes itself as ‘progressive,’ is a member of the NGO network that leads the demonization campaigns targeting Israel. Like other such groups, they use pseudo-legal claims to deny Israel the right to defend its population from terrorism. Its partners have included the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – a Gaza-based NGO with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist organization, as documented by NGO Monitor.”
Jan Fermon, secretary-general of the association and a Belgium-based lawyer, wrote the Post by email, saying, “Regarding BDS, IADL supports this movement… IADL engaged in solidarity with the Palestinian people in a very early stage of its existence because it considers the violations of international law and human rights law… by the Israeli authorities as a major obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the region.”
In addition to the association’s account with Comerica, its website solicits donations and lists accounts with Spanish bank La Caixa and PayPal.
Post email queries to La Caixa and PayPal were not returned.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.