Europe

Second Largest German Bank Closes Anti-Israel Boycott Account

A major German bank closed an account belonging to an anti-Zionist group involved in the boycott campaign against Israel, Benjamin Weinthal of The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.

The decision by Commerzbank, Germany’s second largest bank, to stop hosting the account was confirmed to Weinthal by a “reliable source.”

The account was linked to Der Semit, an anti-Zionist website that promotes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel. The editor-in-chief of Der Semit’s now-defunct print magazine was Oscar LeWinter, a confidence man who had previously been convicted on fraud and drug dealing charges, and who was known for his role in promoting the “October Surprise” conspiracy theory, which alleged that Republicans conspired with Iran to delay the release of American hostages in order to hurt President Jimmy Carter’s reelection bid.

“The BDS campaign, which seeks the destruction of Israel, is discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-peace, and often has connections to extremist and terrorist groups,” said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister. “I call on other banks to follow Commerzbank’s example, particularly those with connections to official state bodies that claim to oppose BDS. I will continue to work to expose the true face of the BDS extremists and their supporters, and to ensure that they face the full consequences of their actions.”

The Post first reported the existence of the account in April. At the time, Sen. Mark Kirk (R – Ill.) called for an investigation into Commerzbank — which has branches in Illinois — and suggested that its hosting of the account could have put it in violation of Illinois’ anti-BDS legislation.

Austrian giant Erste Group bank was reportedly embroiled in controversy after it was revealed to be hosting the account of a BDS-supporting organization in March. Erste Group bank closed the BDS account in May while another Austrian banking giant, BAWAG, followed suit earlier this month. A German bank — a subsidiary of the French giant BNP Paribas — came under legal pressure in February to close the account of Germany’s BDS campaign since it put the bank in violation of French law (France’s high court last year ruled that BDS was an illegal form of hate speech). The BDS group confirmed a few weeks later that its account had been closed.

At a congressional hearing last month, Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, outlined how members of a network that used to fund Hamas have become the driving force behind the BDS campaign against Israel in the United States.

BDS seeks to stigmatize and isolate Israel socially, economically, and politically until it accedes to a number of unilateral Palestinian demands. Critics of the campaign have accused it of being discriminatory in tone and intention, and pointed out that many of its leaders have publicly affirmed that they seek Israel’s destruction. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, an opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

[Photo: Christian Wolf / WikiCommons ]