June 5, 2017 | The Jerusalem Post

US, German Politicians Urge PayPal to Close Neo-Nazi Party’s Account

American and German politicians called on PayPal to close the account of Germany’s neo-Nazi Der Dritte Weg (“The Third Way”) party.

“Congressman Zeldin supports the closure of this Pay-Pal account,” Jennifer DiSiena, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York)’s communications director, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R-Illinois) said: “Technology companies and financial institutions have both a moral and legal responsibility to make sure they are not supporting terrorism. Failure to do so is not just a bad business decision – it can also lead to enforcement action from the US government.”

Neo-Nazis from The Third Way traveled to Lebanon in March and lauded Hezbollah’s 2006 war against Israel. The neo-Nazi group supports Basher Assad’s regime in Syria and urges a full boycott of Israel, which it calls on its website a “terror state.”

Volker Beck, a leading Green Party deputy in the Bundestag who is chairman of the German-Israel Parliamentary Group, said, “I find that one should not voluntarily provide an account to a neo-Nazi party, Holocaust deniers and other antisemites. Therefore, I also expect companies [to show] some civil courage.”

The Third Way’s PayPal webpage, where the account is listed, calls to support a convicted Holocaust denier, saying, “Freedom for Horst Mahler: Political Prisoner of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

German authorities recognize The Third Way as a clear and present danger to minorities. Hans George Maassen, the head of the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution – the rough equivalent of Israel’s Shin Bet – said in a 2015 German TV interview, “We have already seen that their [The Third Way] agitation, their condoning of violence and their praising of aggression are encouraging further acts of violence.” He added, “We are concerned that not only refugee shelters but also actual people will be hurt.”

Christian and Jewish groups raised alarm bells last week about The Third Way’s account with PayPal.

David Brog, Christians United for Israel’s founding executive director, said: “PayPal claims that it will not allow its services to be used in support of ‘activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.’”

Brog, whose US-based organization has more than 3 million members, said: “If the allegations against Third Way are true, then they have not only violated this policy but they may well have violated the laws of certain countries in which PayPal operates. We call upon PayPal to do the right thing and be consistent in implementing its policies. Antisemitism should be no more tolerated than any other form of hate.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “For years, ADL has worked with PayPal and other e-commerce and funding platforms to interrupt monetization by hate groups. Extremist groups have long used the Internet to recruit members, distribute propaganda and raise money, so it’s not surprising to hear that the German neo-Nazi group Der Dritte Weg is using PayPal.”

He continued, “ADL is investigating the [neo-Nazi party’s] website, the owner and connections to other websites. ADL has worked with all the major transaction websites and we have found them to be responsive to credible complaints.”

The Third Way did not respond to Post queries.

Eleanor Chambre, a PayPal spokeswoman, advised the Post by email to contact PayPal’s press office, because she was unavailable. PayPal’s press office told the Post to write PayPal via Twitter. The AskPayPal Twitter account did not respond to Post press queries in German and English.

The Post has learned that PayPal is reluctant to terminate the neo-Nazi group’s account because The Third Way is not banned in Germany. Many of The Third Way’s members come from a neo-Nazi organization Freies Netz Süd (Free Network South) that German authorities banned in 2014.

Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said, “Any company which knowingly is involved in the trade of neo-Nazi or antisemitic material is complicit in the peddling of hate. There should be no ifs or buts: PayPal needs to ban this account immediately and stem its involvement with The Third Way.

“We hope PayPal and all similar companies will impose rigorous oversight and regulations to ensure that their customers do not contribute to racism, xenophobia or antisemitism.”

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