Bank für Sozialwirtschaft tells members of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, which includes a number of Israelis, that its account has been closed due to their support for BDS.
Can a Jewish organization with Israeli members be considered anti-Semitic? Is it the job of a German bank to make that call? According to Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (Bank for Social Economy) the answer to those two questions is a resounding yes.
Six weeks ago members of the group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, based in Germany, received a message from their bank that their account was being closed, without any additional explanations. The organization, which was founded as a local chapter of European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP), a federation of Jewish groups aimed at bringing about peace in the Middle East and ensuring human rights for Palestinians. (Full disclosure: Inna Michaeli, who serves on +972’s board, is also a member of the group.)
Only after the bank’s surprising decision to close the account did the organization’s board members discover an article published by Benjamin Weinthal that had been published earlier in the Jerusalem Post. Weinthal’s article described how various Jewish groups asked the bank to close Jewish Voice’s account, allegedly due to its support for the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. The bank provides services to various civil society groups, including a number of Jewish groups, such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF-KKL) in Germany (the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany owns 0.7 percent of the bank’s stock). German law allows banks to shut down their clients’ accounts without explanation.
Following protests by Jewish Voice activists, supported by members of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, the bank agreed to meet with the organization. “We met with the head and spokesperson of the bank and explained to them that we are a Jewish organization with many Israeli members, and that we cannot be anti-Israel,” says Shir Hever, an Israeli who lives in Germany and serves on Jewish Voice’s board. “We said that our support for BDS is general, as a nonviolent campaign for human rights, and that we support actions directed at companies that directly profit from the occupation, and that even our platform includes support for two states.”
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