December 6, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post
Public Security Minister Erdan urges German bank to close BDS accounts
Bank provides account to NGO that promotes website comparing Israel with Nazis
The Jerusalem Post’s disclosure of a bank account in Germany held by an entity that supports the BDS movement prompted Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan to urge the Germany-based Bank for Social Economy this week to pull the financial plug on its accounts that enable activities to boycott the Jewish state.
“I call on all German banks to cut their ties with any and all BDS organizations, and join the many German institutions and leaders who have united against the antisemitic boycott campaign,” Erdan told the Post via email.
“During my recent trip to Frankfurt, I emphasized the need to defeat the discriminatory and hate-filled BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] campaign against Israel’s right to exist,” he added. “This stance has already been adopted by our close friends in Germany, including the CDU [Christian Democratic Union Party] and major municipalities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.”
Erdan was in Germany in late November to speak at a pro-Israel conference in the city of Frankfurt.
The pro-BDS group – German Coordination Circle Palestine/Israel (KOPI) listed an account with Bank for Social Economy in a letter it sent recently to raise funds for the pro-BDS website Das Palästina Portal – The Palestine Portal. Despite the letter, the bank said on December 17 that KOPI does not hold an account there.
The Palestine Portal website is deemed anti-Zionist by the scholar Dr. Lars Rensmann, who is a Professor of European Politics and Society in the Centre of International Relations Research at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
According to the 2008 Bundestag “Expert Forum on Combating Antisemitism – Challenges and Successful Strategies” – where the Post was present and Rensmann delivered his presentation on modern antisemitism in Germany – the alleged antisemitism of The Palestine Portal was a topic at the forum.
The published report of the hearing from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe documented the comparisons between Israel and a Nazi on the Palestine Portal’s website and other websites: The demonization of Israel as an “apartheid state” or as “Nazisreal” now has a long tradition in “anti-Zionist” or allegedly “pro-Palestinian” publications – with or without links to “the Left.”
This includes cartoons portraying Israeli politicians as revenants of Nazis, as exemplified in the portrayal of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in Nazi-uniform on the portal’s website.
THE PALESTINE Portal, based in the West German city of Dortmund, is run by Erhard Arendt. KOPI did not respond to a Post query seeking a comment about its fundraising letter for the website.
Harald Schmitz, the CEO of the Bank for Social Economy, declined to answer numerous Post emails about the bank’s accounts with BDS organizations.
The bank provides an additional account to the pro-BDS organization Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East. As a result, the German branch of Keren Hayesod terminated its account with the bank in June. And The Jewish National Fund in Germany switched its account to a different bank.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that the center “commends the many institutions and leaders from the full political spectrum of Germany who recognize BDS for what it is, an ugly antisemitic, extreme anti-Israel campaign.
“We reiterate our call to all German banks to stop serving as enablers of BDS,” he added. “Those who don’t, put themselves on the side of antisemites and forces who seek Israel’s demise. We will continue to fight BDS in Germany and around the world.”
Dr. Felix Klein, the German government’s first special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, has called on the bank’s leadership to stop its BDS business. Major Jewish organizations ranging from the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee – as well as prominent German Jewish leaders Daniel Killy and Margaret Traub – have also urged the bank to sever itself from BDS clients.
The German-Jewish activist Malca Goldstein-Wolf, who lives in Cologne and has launched campaigns against BDS activity in the federal republic, told the Post that she plans to organize a demonstration against the Bank for Social Economy in the beginning of next year.
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.