The chairman of Germany’s nearly 100,000 member Central Council of Jews announced on Thursday that the Bank for Social Economy plans to close an account for a group that supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
German media outlets reported that Dr. Schuster, the head of the Jewish community, said the Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy (BSE – Bank für Sozialwirtschaft) intends to close the account of the association Jewish Voice for a Fair Peace in the Middle East because of its support for the BDS movement.
According to a DPA wire service report last week, the Central Council of Jews in Germany (CCJG) “classifies Jewish Voice as antisemitic.”
The Jerusalem Post first disclosed that BSE re-opened the account for Jewish Voice in 2017 after the financial institution shut the account in 2016 due to its BDS activities in connection with a Post exposé. Numerous emails from the Post to the bank’s CEO Harald Schmitz were not returned.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that the slated closure of the account is an “extremely important development that shows that Germans understand that BDS helps no Palestinian and that it is inherently anti-peace and, in singling out the Jewish state, is antisemitic.”
The slated closure of the account is an “extremely important development that shows that Germans understand that BDS helps no Palestinian and that it is inherently anti-peace and, in singling out the Jewish state, is antisemitic.”
The Bank for Social Economy was included on the Wiesenthal Center’s 2018 top 10 list of worst outbreaks of antisemitism because of its defense of the Jewish Voice group and its refusal to terminate the organization’s account. The Wiesenthal Center classified the bank’s account with Jewish Voice as number seven on its list.
Post emails to Jewish Voice were not answered.
Mainstream Jewish groups – including the World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress, CCJG and American Jewish Committee – have urged Schmitz to pull the plug on the account.
The Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany – a part-owner of the Cologne-based Bank for Social Economy – called on the management of the bank last year to end all business relations with groups that support a boycott of the Jewish state, including Jewish Voice.
Last year, the German LGBT organization Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation closed its account with the bank to protest its alleged anti-Israel activities. Last April, the German branch of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal – the prominent Israeli public global organization which raises funds to advance the security of the Jewish state – announced it closed its account for the same reason.
“There must be no free pass for antisemitism and hatred of Israel in Germany,” said Sammy Endzweig, the chairman of Keren Hayesod in Germany, in a statement explaining the account closure. “And only because an organization is labeled ‘Jewish’ and partly founded by Jewish people does not mean that this is the view of the Jewish community in Germany and [that it] has distanced itself from the goals of the BDS movement.”
In September, the German branch of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (JNF-KKL) said that it removed its account with the bank because “JNF is aware of the ongoing support of the goals of the antisemitic BDS movement by the association Jewish Voice. We regret that the Bank for Social Economy has not drawn the necessary conclusions despite the public pressure to finally close the account of Jewish Voice.”
Jewish Voice in Germany describes the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace as its “sister organization.” Jewish Voice in the US hosted the convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh at its spring 2017 conference in Chicago. The head of the NGO said at the time that Jewish Voice for Peace 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. Israel bans the US-based Jewish Voice from entering the country.
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.