Dr. Bijan Djir-Sarai became the first ever member of the German Bundestag to urge German banks to restrict access to organizations seeking to boycott the Jewish state.
Djir-Sarai, the foreign policy spokesman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), wrote to The Jerusalem Post by email on Friday: “The Bank for Social Economy should close the accounts of the association Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. Antisemitism must not be tolerated. Business relationships with such actors need to be reconsidered and their platforms limited.”
The Bank for Social Economy, whose headquarters is located in the city of Cologne in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, holds an account for the pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) organization Jewish Voice.
Djir-Sarai, who is the chairman of the FDP state group in North Rhine-Westphalia, has gained a reputation as one of the Bundestag’s most pro-Israel MPs over the last six months for his work in seeking to change Germany’s anti-Israel voting record at the UN.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration voted 16 times against Israel last year at the UN.
The Green Party politician Volker Beck tweeted on April 8: “Hello Bank for Social Economy. Boycott the boycotts! Close the account of BDS supporters!”
Beck, who is also an expert on German antisemitism and a lecturer in Religious Sciences (CERES) at the Ruhr University in Bochum, sent a statement to the Post.
He wrote “Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East supports BDS. BDS promotes antisemitism in our country and delegitimizes Israel, the Jewish and democratic state.
“With the logo against the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, which contains the emblem of the SS in the middle, the BDS campaign is currently even serving patterns of secondary antisemitism.”
SS is an abbreviation for the German word Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron) – a significant para-military entity for Adolf Hitler’s Nazi movement.
This is not the first example of Jewish Voice in Germany supporting comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. A member of the group, Iris Hefets, held a sign at an anti-Israel rally declaring: “Führer of Israel to the international court.”
Beck told the Post :”It is high time that the Bank for Social Economy draws a clear line. The attempt to settle the problem by using an expert and to hide behind a report in the decision to establish business relations with the Jewish Voice has failed. The Bank for Social Economy now has to show its colors.”
The Post reported in January the Bank for Social Economy’s chief executive Harald Schmitz retained a controversial academic, Juliane Wetzel, to issue a report on whether the organization, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, is antisemitic.
After a Post exposé about the academic Wetzel spreading an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory – and the pro-BDS views of a representative of the institute where she works in Berlin – the bank pulled the plug on her expert analysis.
Beck said the Bank for Social Economy told him “due to the massive criticism of the commission of the report, its possible contents and the reviewer” the bank decided to rescind the report.
Beck said the bank is conducting “confidential discussions” with Jewish Voice.
Both the Israeli and American governments, as well as a wide spectrum of mainstream Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, have called on the bank for over a year to close the account of Jewish Voice.
Post queries to Schmitz, the CEO of the bank, were not returned. Jewish Voice played a role in supporting the convicted PFLP terrorist Rasmea Odeh’s efforts to deliver a talk in March in Berlin. The Berlin authorities expelled Odeh because of her threat to the peaceful coexistence in the capital.
The Post discovered that two German Jewish organizations have ties to the Bank for Social Economy. The Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany (ZWST) is a part owner of the Bank for Social Economy.
When asked by the Post if ZWST plans to follow the state of Texas’s lead and divest from companies with BDS business, the executive director Aron Schuster declined to answer.
Texas state agencies started in April to divest nearly $72 million worth of stock in the Norwegian company DNB ASA, a financial services company, that boycotts Israel. Schuster, when asked on Twitter about his organization’s role in BDS, blocked a Post reporter. Schuster’s Twitter feed says: “Not Afraid.”
Germany’s largest local Jewish community in Berlin has an account with the Bank for Social Economy. When asked if the community plans to close the account, Ilan Kiesling, the community’s spokesman, wrote the Post by email:”The Jewish Community of Berlin has been fighting against the activities of the BDS movement for years… That is why we, of course, also support the request to the Bank for Social Economy to terminate the account of the Jewish Voice. However, this is no reason to cancel the account of the Jewish community and thus leave the field to the BDS movement.”