Over the past three years, the Bank has taken a number of aggressive unilateral measures against us, its customers. Without as much as mentioning it to us, it closed our account in 2016 and even informed an Israeli newspaper of the decision before it informed us. (..) We are currently considering filing a lawsuit against the bank, and we invite other organizations that have an account with the Bank for Social Economy to make the matter public….
The Bank for Social Economy (BfS) renews its attack on a Jewish organization
For three years now, the Israeli government and its affiliated organizations have been trying to force the closure of our Society Account with BfS. Instead of protecting our fundamental rights, the bank has levied us with sanctions right from the start of this anti-democratic campaign, and it has finally issued us with the following ultimatum: Officially distance yourselves from the BDS movement, or we will close your account.
We refuse to betray our principles and insist on our right to stand up for Palestinians, Jews and Germans who resist oppression by non-violent means.
The bank has become the instrument of anti-democratic forces that wish to silence any form of solidarity with the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom.
Apparently there are other BfS customers who have also been given a similar ultimatum by the bank.
We maintain that, regardless of whether an organisation supports BDS or not, the bank has no right to use its services as a means of controlling freedom of expression in Germany.
The BfS has actually informed us that it came to its decision as a result of “pressure from Israel”. It has thereby admitted itself to being used as a tool for foreign intervention in German politics. The bank fails to differentiate between the Israeli government, the Israeli public, and the Jewish people. It adopts the stereotypical view of all Jews propagated by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs: Jews are to be seen as a unified political entity in order to prevent criticism of Israel and of Israeli politics by German organizations.
Following the initial closure of our account in 2016, and the bank’s informing an Israeli newspaper of this decision before informing us, we received a great deal of support and solidarity in Germany and beyond, which ultimately led to the bank reopening our account.
Subsequently however, the bank, again unilaterally, decided to commission a white German expert to examine our organization for suspected antisemitism. It can hardly be the task of a bank to subject its clients to thought police – especially when a German bank investigates Jewish people in order to decide whether they are anti-Semitic or not, and whether they correspond to the German image of a “good Jew”. Such behavior is manipulative. After an appeal by many Israeli and Jewish intellectuals in solidarity with our organization, this absurd enterprise too had to be cancelled. The Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism at the TU Berlin, where the commissioned expert is employed, withdrew from this project.
In light of the fact that the bank has no legal means for controlling its clients’ political views, it would seem to be resorting to a method which has its origins in the McCarthy era in the USA: namely to demand that all its clients distance themselves from the legal and peaceful BDS campaign in order to socially isolate its supporters.
We are currently considering filing a legal complaint against the bank, and we invite other organizations that have an account with the BfS to make the bank’s methods of handling its clients’ fundamental right to freedom of expression public. If they have been forced to distance themselves from BDS in writing, we ask them not to keep this a secret. We call on organizations and individuals who value human rights and democratic values to protest publicly against the Bank for Social Economy’s (BfS) decision.