Just days after the German Bank for Social Economy closed the account of a pro-BDS group, the Shurat HaDin Law Center accused the bank and the BDS group of playing a role in financing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the US- and EU-designated terrorist entity.
The Jerusalem Post reported in 2018 and 2019 on connections between the pro-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East – the German arm of the umbrella organization European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) – and Rasmea Odeh, a convicted PFLP terrorist.
The Post first exposed the bank’s account with Jewish Voice in 2016, and as a result, the bank now demands that its customers reject BDS as part of its business relations.
Josef Schuster, president of the nearly 100,000 member Central Council of Jews in Germany, termed Jewish Voice an “antisemitic association” in February, and welcomed the bank’s closure of the account on Friday.
Calling it a “long overdue step,” Schuster tweeted that “The Bank for Social Economy finally makes it clear that it is unwilling to conduct business relationships with an organization that supports the antisemitic BDS movement.”
The Post obtained the June 12 Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) letter to the bank’s chairman stating: “I write to place you on formal notice that Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East… an organization with close ties to designated terrorist groups maintains an account with your institution. As you are aware, United States law prohibits the provision of material support and resources to terrorist groups, including the provision of banking and financial services such as those being furnished by Bank für Sozialwirtschaft [Bank for Social Economy] to EJJP.
“I call on chairman [Harald] Schmitz and the bank’s executive board to take immediate action and close EJJP’s account. EJJP openly courts speakers who are convicted terrorists, members and former members of designated terrorist organizations that advocate for Israel’s complete destruction.”
The letter added “One such organization is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] designated by the European Union, Canada and Israel as well as the US State Department, Bureau of Counterterrorism as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. EJJP recently invited PFLP terrorist Rasmea Odeh to speak at an event in Berlin on March 27, 2019. Donations for this event featuring a known convicted terrorist were wired and deposited in EJJP’s account at your bank.
“Odeh has a criminal record for terrorist related activities during her membership in the PFLP, including convictions for murdering Eduard Yaffe and Leon Kanner as well as seriously injuring nine other civilians in two separate bombings.”
Shurat HaDin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who wrote the letter to the bank, noted that allowing Jewish Voice to use “your banking services evidences a complete lack of due diligence and administrative safeguards by Bank für Sozialwirtschaft and may render you a supporter of international terrorism in violation of the criminal and civil provisions of the United States’ Anti-Terrorism Act. Such aiding and abetting of terrorism creates a risk of civil liability claims under the civil provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act” in the US.
In response to the bank’s closure on Thursday of the Jewish Voice account, Darshan-Leitner told the Post: “We applaud the bank for shutting down the account of this infamous hate group that has ties to the PFLP, an organization that was connected to the Munich Olympic massacre. We believe this is the beginning of a powerful trend by European financial institutions and bankers to scrutinize the BDS movement for its proven ties to terrorists.
“The ‘know your customer’ regulations means, minimally, investigating whether bank clients are serving as an arm to murderous terror groups like the PFLP. European institutions that refuse to investigate whether their account holders are tied to terror might find themselves both civilly and criminally liable.”
Stephanie Rüth, spokeswoman for the Bank for Social Economy, told the Post that the bank flatly denies that it financed Palestinian terrorism-related activities.
The bank issued a statement on its website on Friday defending its closure of the Jewish Voice account: “The Bank für Sozialwirtschaft was compelled to determine that a sufficiently clear demarcation from the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] Campaign is not possible on the part of the ‘Jüdische Stimme’ [Jewish Voice]. The relationship of trust required for a continuation of the business relationship could also not be restored sufficiently.”
The bank’s statement added “As a result of its business relationship with the ‘Jüdische Stimme,’ the bank has become the permanent site of a political campaign due to the support of the BDS campaign by the ‘Jüdische Stimme,’ which the bank could not overcome. It fears that will continue to be instrumentalized by the intensifying debate about the BDS campaign, with the reputation of the bank being increasingly damaged as a result.”
Numerous Post media queries to Jewish Voice were not returned.
The Shurat HaDin letter said Jewish Voice in Germany “is in fact the sister organization of the radical anti-Israel organization Jewish Voice for Peace [JVP] in the United States as well as an integral part of the antisemitic BDS movement’s plan to destroy Israel and ‘free Palestine from the river to the sea’; a call for cleansing the entire State of Israel of any Jewish presence.
“Germany’s own parliament recently passed legislation classifying BDS as ‘antisemitic.’ The time for this bank to acknowledge and cease its open support for BDS organizations like EJJP is long overdue.”
On Sunday, US-based Jewish Voice for Peace’s executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson complained about the bank account closure while conducting an interview on Facebook with the pro-BDS academic Judith Butler. Butler, who is on the JVP board, has said “understanding Hamas and Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left and that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.”
The US and the EU designated Hamas a terrorist entity. The Arab League, the United Kingdom, the US, Israel, the Netherlands and Canada classify all of Hezbollah a terrorist organization, while the EU merely proscribed Hezbollah’s so-called military wing a terrorist unit.
Uwe Becker, the commission to combat antisemitism in the German state of Hesse, welcomed the bank’s decision to shut the account.
“A late but very good decision,” Becker emailed the Post. “Antisemitism must not pay off. BDS is a deeply antisemitic movement and groups that support this form of terror against Israel now know the consequences.
“Antisemitism is not an opinion but a crime, and we cannot tolerate business ties with antisemitic organizations like BDS and those who sail under the flag of this terror group.”
Some 30 financial accounts associated with BDS-promoting nonprofits with ties to terrorism or terrorist operatives have been closed in the last two years, according to a report by the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which has published two monographs this year detailing the links between BDS and terrorism: “Terrorists in Suits: The Ties between NGOs Promoting BDS and Terrorist Organizations” and “The Money Trail: European Financing of Organizations Promoting Boycotts Against the State of Israel.”