September 17, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

French payment service supports BDS, defies anti-bias law

The online payment service HelloAsso announced that it will continue to provide services to boycott Israel organizations whose accounts were shut down by PayPal and French banks for apparent violations of France’s anti-discrimination law.

HelloAsso tweeted a statement on September 3, saying: “We took the decision not to suspend the HelloAsso account of the France-Palestine Solidarity Association.”

The US online payment giant PayPal closed the account of the pro-BDS France-Palestine Solidarity Association in January.

BDS is an abbreviation for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting Israel.

As part of an investigative series into funding streams for BDS organizations waging economic warfare against the Jewish state, The Jerusalem Post had asked PayPal: Is the association’s account with PayPal in violation of France’s anti-discrimination Lellouche law?

After the Post query, PayPal shut down the service for the France-Palestine Solidarity Association.

HelloAsso wrote on Twitter on September 3, according to a translation on the website of the BDS movement that was verified by the Post, that “HelloAsso is an apolitical platform that does not take any position regarding the claims of the BDS movement. HelloAsso nevertheless considers this movement as within the realm of free expression and not as discriminatory or antisemitic.

“HelloAsso’s position is supported by the European Union, which has clearly stated it favors protecting freedom of expression and association, including the right to advocate for BDS.”

The BDS movement’s website wrote about HelloAsso on Wednesday, stating: “HelloAsso, a French company that provides online payment services, has rejected pressure by Israel lobby groups to shut down the accounts of two French groups which support the BDS movement for Palestinian human rights.”

It is unclear what the BDS movement website means by “Israel lobby groups.”

Paris-based attorney Pascal Markowicz is pursuing legal action against HelloAsso for violations against France’s anti-discrimination Lellouche Law.

HelloAsso wrote in its statement: “To all those who criticize us for hosting these organizations, we respond that the conflation that allows attacks on these organizations is dangerous because it conflates antisemitism, which we condemn without ambiguity, and criticism of the State of Israel, which is a political opinion. This freedom of expression is a fundamental right.”

France has one of the most robust anti-BDS laws in Europe, the Lellouche Law, which bans discrimination based on national origin and has been applied to cases of BDS.

The Post has reached out to HelloAsso earlier this year because the company has absorbed the business of French BDS organizations whose accounts were terminated by French banks and online payment services to comply with the country’s anti-bias law.

HelloAsso, which was founded by Ismaël Le Mouël and officially launched in 2013, had not responded to Post emails and telephone calls regarding its alleged illegal financial practices.

Paul Furia, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, told the Post in January, “I want to point out that calling to boycott of Israel is indeed illegal in France. Several decisions of the highest criminal court [the Cour de Cassation] confirmed that calling to boycott breaks the law and constitutes an incitement to discrimination or hate based on national origin or religion.”

Germany’s federal government commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism, Dr. Felix Klein, told the Post on Saturday, “BDS is decidedly antisemitic in its actions and goals.”

After a Post 2016 expose on a similar boycott movement, Campagne BDS France, PayPal and the bank Credit Mutuel closed the group’s accounts amid escalating criticism over its illegal practices.

After the PayPal closures, the Jewish French Union for Peace and Campagne BDS France switched to HelloAsso to secure donations.