BERLIN – The international banking giant Commerzbank closed a boycott Israel account in Germany.
A highly reliable source told the Post that the account has been “dealt with” and the bank notified the account holder over a month ago.
The closure of the anti-Israel account because of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activity targeting Israel is believed to be the first instance of a German-owned bank taking action against BDS.
“I welcome and commend the decision by Commerzbank and other European banks to close the accounts of BDS organizations. This is the right thing to do from both a legal, financial and moral perspective.
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,” Gilad Erdan, the public security minister, told the TOT on Tuesday.
Erdan, who is tasked with combating BDS for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, added “I call on other banks to follow Commerzbank’s example, particularly those with connections to official state bodies which 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 anti-Israel and pro-BDS website “Der Semit” lists its account in a small town in the state of Hesse, where Commerzbank’s headquarters are located in Frankfurt. BDS seeks to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestnians.
Michael Machauer, the Commerzbank spokesman, told the TOT “We cannot because of data protection and bank secrecy laws answer questions regarding existing account relationships.” He added that “Commerzbank adheres to all compliance standards and regulations governing accounts.”
In response to a TOT query, the Commerzbank account holder for the pro-BDS website in Hesse declined to comment.
According to German bank law, financial institutions can summarily terminate accounts without providing a reason. As a general rule, the account holder has a grace period of 90 days to wind down financial transactions before the closure.
Commerzbank has offices and branches in more than 50 countries, according to its website.
The anti-Israel extremist, who owns the BDS website, lost a court case to the prominent German Jewish journalist Henryk M. Broder in 2007. Broder termed the owner of the website as part of “experts in applied Jewphobia.”
The closure of the BDS account may have ramifications that will ripple across Germany, where there are scores of anti-Israel groups that promote BDS and maintain bank accounts within the Federal Republic.
In February, the Post reported exclusively that the French bank Paribas shut the account of the BDS Campaign in Germany which was held by the bank’s subsidiary DAB in Munich.
German banks that provide accounts to BDS groups range from Sparkasse to Deutsche PostBank to the Stuttgart-based BW bank in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.
Erdan’s comment urging banks with “connections to official state bodies” is an apparent reference to the BW bank’s governmental ties.
The city of Stuttgart owns nearly 20% of the BW bank. The state government owns roughly 25% of the bank. BW furnishes an account to one of Germany’s most active BDS groups—Palestine Committee Stuttgart. The BW also provides an account to the local neo-Nazi party (NPD) in Stuttgart. Both the neo-Nazi organization NPD and Palestine Committee Stuttgart share the same anti-Israel BDS goals.
The BW, like the Commerzbank, has an office in New York City. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week an executive order to punish companies in the state that are engaged in BDS activity. For Cuomo to sanction the companies, the companies are required to have state business. Cuomo said “It’s very simple: If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
Rüdiger Schoß, a spokesman for the BW, wrote the Post that the BW “bank does not support calls to boycott Israel.” He added “a refusal to provide an account is only possible when, according to German law, objective impediments are present, for example, violations of sanctions guidelines, calls to violence or a documented denial of the Holocaust.”
Rudi Hoogvliet, a spokesman for Winfried Kretschmann, the Green Party governor of Baden-Württemberg, declined to comment specifically, saying the state does not have anything new to add to the BW comment.
Eva Muszar, a spokeswoman for the Green Party in Stuttgart, told the Post that “we Greens reject a boycott of Israel as well as BDS.
The BDS campaign aggressively calls for a boycott of Israeli goods and organizations and is collectively directed against Jewish Israelis and uses anti-Semitic prejudices.” Muzar said BDS is to be judged as “anti-Semitic.”
A spokesman for the Mayor Fritz Kuhn said “the bank’s operational business is a matter for the bank to explain.” Kuhn rejects BDS.
Thomas Oeben, a spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union–the coalition partner of the Greens in the state government—declined to answer Post queries about BDS and the role of the BW.
US Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) issued a tough comment on the row over the German bank and BDS activity in April: “I am alarmed by reports that Commerzbank, a German bank headquartered in Frankfurt with branches in Illinois and New York, may be one of several German banks facilitating accounts used by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic BDS groups, and I urge the Illinois Investment Policy Board to investigate these reports under our state’s first-in-the-nation anti-BDS law.”
Kirk said ”recent reports of pro-BDS German banks further underscore the need for Congress to pass the Combating BDS Act of 2016, a bipartisan bill to authorize state and local governments to follow Illinois’ lead and divest public taxpayer money from companies engaged in anti-Semitic BDS conduct.”
Kirk’s comment followed Erdan’s statement in April that European banks involved in BDS activity face “potential legal, reputational and ethical consequences.”
Kirk and Erdan’s statements may have played a critical role in the closure of Commerzbank BDS account, as well as additional BDS account closures in April, May and June.
The TOT investigative series on BDS accounts in Europe has led to the closure of six pro-BDS organization accounts. The network of BDS accounts sometimes overlap with the shadowy world of Palestinian and Iranian terrorism and unfettered travel movement in the EU.
Last week, the Austrian bank Bawag shut the account for the Austria-Arab Culture Center.
The group hosted the convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled. Khaled is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) The EU and the US both classify the PFLP as a terrorist organization.
Khaled hijacked American TWA flight 840 in 1969. A year later, she hijacked EL AL flight 219. Khaled was in Europe as part of a speaking tour.
In May, PayPal and Credit Mutuel pulled the plug on their accounts with BDS France.
The Austrian financial company Erste Group terminated BDS Austria’s account in April.