February 14, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

German Bank Enables Pro-BDS NGO that Supports IDF Deserters

A German bank has been catapulted into an anti-Israel scandal because it provides an account to an NGO that supports Israelis who desert from or refuse to serve in the IDF.

The Jerusalem Post’s ongoing investigative series into the financial entities that enable a boycott of Israel revealed that the Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy (Bank für Sozialwirtschaft) operates an account for Connection e.V., a German nongovernmental organization that describes its mission as the “international support of conscientious objectors and deserters.” Connection e.V. rejects Israel as a national homeland for Jews.

The NGO has posted numerous articles on its website, as part of its campaign to raise money for Israelis who refuse to serve in the IDF, including a February electronic email campaign to write Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in support of Mattan Helman, a conscientious objector. Helman, from Kibbutz Haogen, is serving prison time because of his refusal to be drafted into the IDF.

Connection e.V. advocates a full-blown boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against the Jewish state. After Israel in 2010 intercepted the Turkish Mavi Marmara protest ship with jihadis on board, seeking to enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the German NGO published a call from War Resisters International for “companies to withdraw their investments in support of the Israeli state” and for a “boycott of Israeli products.”

Connection e.V. published a second BDS text on its website, apparently last year, in which BDS is termed “wonderful.”

The 2010 pro-BDS article stated that “it is clear that the Israeli state is not the legal inheritance of the millions of Jews who were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. Israel is rather based on violence, denial of human rights and the violation of international norms of human decency.”

Connection e.V. declined to respond to Post press queries.

A growing number of German banks, including Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and DAB in Munich, have closed accounts with German BDS groups since 2016. Post queries to the Bank for Social Economy’s chairman Harald Schmitz were not returned.

Minister Gilad Erdan previously told the Post that the Bank for Social Economy should terminate its support for BDS activity.

“As minister of strategic affairs, I am leading an international campaign to defend Israel from the BDS movement’s hateful attacks against Israel’s right to exist. This stance against BDS has been adopted by our close friends in Germany, including the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] and municipalities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. I call on the Bank for Social Economy to join the many German institutions, leaders and citizens who are uniting to reject the discriminatory and antisemitic boycott movement against Israel,” Erdan said.

Margaret Traub, head of the Jewish community in Bonn – a city that is a 25-minute train ride from Cologne – told the Post that there “should be no more business with this bank [the Bank for Social Economy] as long as the account of this anti-Israel group is not closed.”

Dr. Elvira Grözinger, head of the German section of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post, “I am shocked that the Bank for [Social Economy] is obviously taking sides with the enemies of Israel. This bank was founded in 1923 for economic and social welfare. Supporting BDS contradicts this purpose as it destroys the economic basis also of thousands of Palestinian families whose members are well-paid employees of Israeli companies ruined by the boycott. The German parliament recently declared its determination to stop all the BDS activities. The bank should urgently rethink its policy.”

The Bank for Social Economy has been engulfed in an alleged antisemitism scandal since it reopened an account for the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East in Germany.

Responding to the ban imposed in January on entry to Israel of representatives of 20 organizations that advocate a boycott of the Jewish state, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East wrote in an open letter to Erdan: “Among the list of banned organizations is our sister organization Jewish Voice for Peace in the US, with whom we share many values and political goals, and for whom we have the highest regard.”

The US-based Jewish Voice for Peace hosted the convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh at its spring 2017 conference in Chicago. The head of the NGO said at the time that JVP was “honored to hear from her.”

Odeh, a former member of the US- and EU-classified terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was responsible for a 1969 bombing that murdered two students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe, in a Jerusalem supermarket. She pleaded guilty in 2017 to US naturalization fraud, and was deported in September to Jordan because she had lied about her terrorism conviction when she entered the US.