German Bank Closes Account of Jewish Voices for Peace Over BDS Support

Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Twice since the Nazis ruled Germany, a German
bank has closed the account of a Jewish organization. It happened in 2016— same bank, same Jewish
organization once again. The bank is called the Bank for Social Economy,
which operates accounts for many civil society organizations, and it’s considered a progressive
banking institution. Nonetheless, they closed the account of Jewish
Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. Jewish Voice— as it’s known— is a German
organization promoting solidarity with Palestinian rights. We covered this here at The Real News before,
describing how it was part of a worldwide campaign to demand that the Bank for Social
Economy refrain from discrimination against its Jewish customers. The bank ceded and the bank reopened the account. This year, things heated up again. The bank then commissioned an external expert
to investigate whether the Jewish Voice is an anti-Semitic group. Although eventually, the expert refused to
conduct such an investigation. Then Jewish Voice proceeded to win the Göttingen
Prize. Shortly afterwards, the bank posed an ultimatum
to them— renounce BDS or we’ll close your account. And we’re joined now by a Board Member of
Jewish Voice who also happens to be a correspondent for The Real News, to discuss why Jewish Voice
refused to engage in an investigation, whether they are anti-Semitic or not, or why they
refused to renounce BDS. Shir Hever is a Board Member of Jewish Voice
for a Just Peace in the Middle East and a correspondent for The Real News Network living
in Heidelberg, Germany. His most recent book is Privatization of Israeli
Security. Welcome back, Shir. Always good to talk to you. Thank you, Marc, for having me. This is a really complex subject in some ways,
so what happened in the intervening time? I read the statement from the bank and I’ll
give you my thoughts about that in a minute, but tell me what happened here. Well, the bank conducted a negotiating process
with us, with Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East and—
Were you part of that? Were you part of that? The negotiation? No, no. Other members of the board participated in
the negotiation process and basically, we were quite optimistic about this negotiating
process. We came with a very positive outlook to it
and we thought the bank is actually willing to apologize for blaming us of anti-Semitism
and arranging this investigation against us. The bank was also, understandably, under a
lot of international pressure and also pressure inside Germany to close our account because
it was generally understood that if a Jewish organization loses its account for supporting
the BDS Movement, then every organization in Germany will have to. All the other organizations will have to announce
that they reject BDS, otherwise their accounts will be closed as well in a very McCarthyistic
way. So it was very important for us in that context
to tell the bank that we want to keep our account with them as a symbolic issue and
that we want to ensure that our existence in this bank is proof of the freedom of speech
in Germany. But at some point, the bank just told us,
either you publish a statement or sign a statement that we will write for you where you distance
yourself from the BDS Movement and basically say that you reject it, or we will close your
account. Of course, we will not accept this kind of
thought control or political control. There is, according to the German Constitution,
the right to free speech and free political expression is protected. The bank doesn’t seem to understand that,
and they just told us that they were going to close our account. Well let me raise, when I read the bank statement
and I was, kind of, thinking about where this would live, but this seems to me a very complex
issue. On the one hand, you’ve got a bank that
refuses to take the Jewish Voice account in a country that is overly-sensitive about things
Jewish because of the Holocaust, what happened in World War II and before. On the other hand, you have all— it seems
from what I’ve been reading— you have all these right-wing Zionist organizations
that were pushing to insist that your account be withdrawn and that you were in fact, even
though you’re Jewish, you’re anti-Semitic. Or, some like to say, self-hating Jews. [laughs] But so, let’s talk about that,
about those two, kind of, contradictions and realities that exist and how they played into
all this, and your analysis of that. I think the best analysis is to use a biblical
story and I’m sure you know it, but maybe not all of our viewers know it— the judgment
of King Solomon, which is in the Bible. In that story, two women who claim to be the
mother of the same baby go to the king, and the king’s solution is to cut the baby in
half. One mother says that she’s okay with it,
but everyone will get a half and basically, no one will get a baby. And the other one says, no give it to the
other one; just don’t kill the baby. And then King Solomon says, oh she must be
the real mother, and gives her the baby. I think this is a very similar situation. Unfortunately, the bank doesn’t seem to
know its Jewish culture and history very well because we have a situation here where the
baby is Jewish life in Germany. The question is, can Jews live in Germany
safe and free, and have their own political opinions and their own choice, what political
opinions to hold? And in this bank, there used to be another
organization, another Jewish organization called Keren Hayesod, which is a pro-Israeli
organization. Actually, Keren Hayesod is registered in Israel. It’s a Zionist organization. It funnels money to illegal colonies in the
West Bank. It buys land which only Jews can live on,
so it’s a very right-wing racist organization. And we never at the Jewish Voice for a Just
Peace called the bank to close their account. We believe that even if this organization
is racist, they are entitled to their opinion. We’ll fight their opinion, but we’re not
going to silence them. We’re going to make sure that our opinion
is also heard. So in that sense, we are willing to have Jewish
life in Germany where everyone will get an opinion. The bank however— Now, what happened is
actually that Keren Hayesod, they said if the bank doesn’t kick out us, they will
leave the bank. And they have more money than you. [laughs] They have a lot more money than us. They are supported by the Israeli government,
so they have a lot more money. But anyway, when the bank last year reopened
our account, they left in protest and said we’re closing our account with this bank. Now, see what’s going to happen to this
bank because they are kicking us out. After we get kicked out, what happens if Keren
Hayesod says, oh we want our account back in the Bank for Social Economy. If the Bank for Social Economy says, no we
are not a place for having political debates— like they do in their statement— we’re
not the right place for having political discussions among Jewish groups. Then basically, they’re saying political
Jewish groups may not have accounts in the bank, which is a totally racist statement. Their other option is to say, yes, we are
willing to have Keren Hayesod, the right-wing organization open their account, but not the
Jewish Voice for a Just Peace. That means the bank says, yes, we’re pro-occupation,
pro-racism, pro-right-wing Jews, but we are against Jews who stand up for human rights. And so, this means that this is not really
a bank so much, but more of a political organization— which again, the bank in their statements
says we’re not a political organization. So, make up your mind. Either you’re a political organization or
you are an organization that doesn’t allow Jews being customers. What do you think really pushed, forced this
decision to happen? I mean, from what I’ve read about this bank,
the Bank for Social Economy, I called it in the opening, kind of, a progressive institution
as banks go. I mean, if this was here in the United States,
it would be considered a progressive bank that takes all these civic groups, it takes
their money, and it seems to back a number of those kind of progressive causes inside
of Germany itself. So what happened? What do you think is really at work here? What is at work here is that the Israeli lobby
is working extremely hard in Germany to try to make BDS illegitimate and even to criminalize
it. They’re willing to use every last card that
they have, drawing on the guilt feelings of Germans over the Holocaust. Although, this is really not the issue so
much for these right-wing Germans who are pro-Israeli and they have pushed this decision
that the German parliament—They are using organizations in Germany that are pretending
to be organizations that represent all Jews in Germany, but of course Jews are a very
varied group, and they have many different opinions, and no one organization can represent
them. Always. Always, I said. Always. Yeah, yeah. Of course, of course. And so, these are the organizations that claim
again and again, BDS is anti-Semitic, and that’s of course a lie. But our organization, the Jewish Voice for
a Just Peace, many of our members support BDS. That’s a big problem for them because it
proves that BDS is not anti-Semitic. We keep publishing information about the rights
of Palestinians, international law, and how German policy towards Israel is riddled with
internal contradictions because it’s blindly supporting Israel and still claiming to be
supporting international law and the opinions of the European Union, and that just doesn’t
go together. That’s why these organizations are very
much focused on taking down the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace. That’s a very problematic target for them. And the fact that we won the Göttingen Peace
Prize this year is something that on the one hand shows just how widespread is the support,
the grassroots support for our organization in Germany. But also, it’s really like a call to arms
for the right-wing pro-Israel organizations that now have to redouble their efforts and
redouble their funding to try to delegitimize our organization. So with the little bit of time we have left
here, just two very quick questions. A— how divided is the Jewish community,
which is a miniscule community compared to what it was in the 20s and 30s, obviously,
but how divided are they on this issue like they seem increasingly divided here in the
United States? And B— what are the next steps? I think in Germany what you don’t really
have so much as you do in the United States is a very large and old, well-entrenched Jewish
community that doesn’t concern itself everyday with matters of Israel-Palestine, that are
more interested in Jewish life for itself. What you do have in Germany is a generation
of Jews that came mainly from the Soviet Union and they’re somewhat of an older generation
here, and they tend to be more conservative. Of course, their political opinions are just
as varied as any other group, but this is the main support base for the organization
called the Central [Council of Jews in Germany], which is a right-wing pro-Israeli organization,
and their Chairman, Dr. Josef Schuster, is constantly attacking our organization, calling
us anti-Semites. But then, you have a new generation of German
Jews, many of them coming from Israel, many of them knowing firsthand what the occupation
looks like and what apartheid looks like— As yourself. As myself. Yes. And there are tens of thousands like myself
who came from Israel to Germany because Germany is considered a liberal and democratic country
where people can express their opinion. Only that we came to this country to find
out that yes, it is a liberal and democratic country on any topic except Israel. On that issue, German politics is still very
backwards, unfortunately. But among this group of Jewish immigrants
to Germany, the opinion is much more to the left. Again, of course, it’s a very varied group. There are also pro-Israelis among the group,
but they’re a small minority. And a very large proportion of this group
supports the BDS Movement. So very quickly because we do have to end
this, so what’s your next steps? Well, we’re considering to appeal to the
court and to file a lawsuit against the bank because according to the German Constitution,
Article 5 of the German Constitution enshrines the right for free speech and freedom of organization. Interestingly, there’s another article of
the German Constitution, Article 18, which has never been actually used before. But this article says that an organization
that abuses their freedom of speech and freedom of organization in order to take away the
rights of other organizations to express themselves freely, will lose those rights. And I think that the Bank for Social Economy
did not do their homework and did not properly research before they took this very rash decision. The fact that they’ve taken a political
position as a bank is something that puts their very existence at risk. Well, Shir Hever, it’s always a great pleasure
to talk with you. Thank you so much for this report and we look
forward to obviously talking to you again very soon. Thank you very much, Marc. Thank you. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News
Network. Thank you all for joining us. Take care.

38 thoughts on “German Bank Closes Account of Jewish Voices for Peace Over BDS Support

  • Do you know that Israel has no constitution? Why? Because a constitution will grant rights to all Palestinians no matter where they are, inside Israel or in the occupied territories.

  • No! It can't be. The Germans are stomping all over the little guy and are on the wrong side of history. Say it ain't so.

  • A timely report. The German constitution explicitly declares freedom of expression to be inviolable. It contains no exception in the case of Jews. Yet here we see and not for the first time a public action to silence Jews as well as to restrict their freedom of commerce, activity also guaranteed by the constitution. Dissent that challenges official state policy is being criminalised, and Jews are once again finding themselves subject to draconian measures designed to bring them under a type of uniform control. Thank you, Real News and Shir Hever, for bringing the matter to our attention.

  • My favorite argument: The Constitution! Are you a signatory or party to this document? All this argument does is make the court feel a little uncomfortable telling you why you (or anybody for that matter) have no standing. Case closed!

  • One thousand acts of Violent purges against dual-Israeli citizens living in New York & Florida and the San Fernando Valley deserve a hundred million dollar grant.

  • Germans calling Jews antisemitic. For condemning Israel's crimes. My (Jewish) head explodes. I guess Germany would call me antisemitic, too. I'm almost 70. WWII is not ancient history for me. My anger is off the scale. What is wrong with Germany?

  • I’ve been recently sharing BDS tweets and have a Palestinian profile flag, which got me 2-3 Israel’s telling me I was Anti Semitic etc, when I explained that ‘Jews for Peace’ and ‘Jews Boycotting Israeli Goods( J-BIG) were ALL Jews that also were against Israel’s oppression etc etc. Then they changed from calling me Anti Semitic’ and referred to me as a Racist instead, I managed to out argue them with irrefutable proof of Israeli abuses, and that it is an illegitimate State as it was imposed on the people ALREADY living their, which was internationally known as Palestine prior to end of WW2.

  • They've done it in the United States with the help of both the Democratic establishment and all of the Republican with the help of the so-called mainstream news media,they've also done it to Jeremy corbyn and the labour party in great Britain and that is to define any criticism of Israel as anti-semitic even if it comes from Jews themselves not to mention the Palestinian people are also a Semitic people so what they mean is any criticism of Israel is anti Jewish which is complete bulshit the zionists like a abused child who grows up to be a serial killer,are the equivalent abused by the German Nazis they've grown up to be evil murderous racist religious fanatical Mass murderers, and these are the type of people that the United States funds to the tune of tens of billions of dollars every year and supplies them with the weapons of death and destruction that they indiscriminately use on civilians.Unlike Obama some one who actually deserved the Nobel Peace prize Desmond Tutu has clearly stated that the apartheid system that the Palestinians live under is far worse than the one he lived under during the rule of the white racist afrikaners who by the way we're support by the evil Zionist in Israel and just like then the United States was supporting the evil oppressors and not the oppressed!!

  • So, when he brought up the bible you might have told him that anecdotes of primitive authoritarians (at best) can't be used on the "real news" network…

  • Since when can a bank tell you what you can and cannot believe politically? Of course, the Israeli lobby is behind this bank closing the JVP account because they support Palestinian rights and the BDS movement. The question is why has the bank given in? The Israeli government is going after anyone who supports the BDS movement. Western governments that go along with the Israeli government in suppressing those who support the BDS movement are betraying their own citizens constitutional rights of free speech.

    Western governments have gone rogue. They no longer govern for the people, in fact what they are doing is not governing. They sold their countries soul and it's rights and freedoms to the neoliberal/corporate/military elite a long time ago. It is these deep state neocon elites, domestically and globally that are in charge. Our Western governments are their mouthpieces. If your are not part of and benefiting from, as most people aren't, this authoritarian, wealth expropriating group, then you are surely its victim. Your government is, constantly manipulating and lying to you, to make sure that you are not aware that you are in fact their number one victim.

    They have pulled out all the stops and are now ready to go for the the domestic and global domination that they have planned and been lusting for since the end of WW11!

  • Compensating for the crimes of the German state in the past by supporting other crimes now. Germans sure can build cars, but are clearly lacking in the moral department.

  • Germans have a lot of experience closing Jewish bank accounts. These German Jews need to count their money to see if nothing was stolen.

  • What the Zionist government is doing is dangerous because if they call everyone antisemitic you can't see the real antisemitic people.

  • I don't know how BDS can be considered anti-semetic. 1) its against a country. 2) a VERY powerful country (lots of guns, bombs, powrful military, and even more powerful allies) 3) we are SUPPOSED to criticise POWER in a civilized world 4) right wing Israel is committing a cultural genocide on the palestines (completely wiping their future out, their identity and culture). BDS seems like the softest form of protest anyone can do given these circumstances.

  • An antiisemetic person used to be someone who does not like Jews.
    Now it is someone Jews dont like. What a joke.

  • BDS is not anti Semitic – it can be applied to any company. BDS is a matter of ethics and talking with one's pocket. BDS all those who are land grabbing. Land grabbing in no way represents Judaism. The ADL supports land grabbing and is therefore implicitly against Judaism and is anti Semitic itself. 99.9999 % of everyone is anti the holacaust and they are also against land grabbing and they support Judaism. One Love.

  • BDS the bank of social economy. One love to our Jewish brothers and sisters who are against land grabbing and oppression. One Love.

  • I didn't know I belonged to any ethnicity. When I was a young woman of 19yrs I learned I was a descendant of Phinehas the Jewish High Priest to whom Almighty God promised there would always be descendants of Phinehas as High Priest to time indefinite Numbers 25:I0-13. My Elohim told me through a chosen messenger to make known what I have come to know about the birth of my Jewish Messiah. No one to date will listen to what my Elohim told me to make known to very important people.  However I was told I would find someone and am searching for a person who will assist me in proving all things.

    Almighty God has taught me from scripture how to know his relationship with Jewish people from Jacob and Jewish people from Moses whose wife was called Zipporah and was an Arabian. Also Keturah was Abraham's Arabian wife whom he married after Sarah died and their progeny were named Sheba and Dedan Genesis 25:1-3. They were prophesied to be dwelling together in security when Gog came from the remotest part of the earth to get great wealth and spoil Ezekiel 38:13-15. Gog came onto the land of Israel by the Balfour declaration in 1948 and judgment is awaiting this action.  

    Moses married Zipporah who was an Arabian daughter of Jethro being descendants of the Kenite Priest of Midian. Zipporah's brother was part of the Israel of God also if you read Numbers 10:29-33 you will see Hobab the Arabian was given land for being guide through the wilderness for 40yrs Judges 1:16. Moses sons were called Gershom and Eliezer and are the tribe of Levi. Their descendants were chieftains over the stores and things made holy to God the Almighty during the reign of King David 1st Chronicles 26:24-26.  

    This is the easy way to identify the true Jew. The true Jew who is in a covenant to dwell upon the land of Israel, whether Arabian or from the other tribes of Judah will keep God's Commandments. The Jew who loves others as self and who keeps the commandments given to Moses will be blessed for he or she is obeying the God of the Sacred covenants of Jews both Arabian Jews and Israelite Jews.  

    Even then Israel came from Chaldea being today's Syria if you read Deuteronomy 26:4;5 you will see the whole Jewish nation were commanded to ask for blessings as Syrians by Abraham and Jacob's parentage. If you look you will see that when zionists who shout about anti-Semitism want to war with Syria they are killing the covenant people because Israel are of Syrian Origen. Even if this were not true any Jew who wants to kill, steal, commit adultery, bear false witness and, or covet land and, or possessions of others is apostate and vengeance will be great upon an apostate people.

    The people claiming to be Jewish who does the will of Satan by Lying, Stealing, Bearing false witness and coveting will receive recompense according to the way he has done to others it will come upon His or Her. own head in the judgment. That day is so close. Read please Ezekiel 14:14-18 showing even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in the midst of the land they would deliver their own soul due to their righteousness but neither son nor daughter would be saved by the obedience of their fathers. According to their ways they will be judged. As for Israel today those sighing and groaning over the bloodshed in that land will be marked for survival when our Messiah comes to judge and redeem mankind.. Ezekiel 9:4; But for those calling themselves Jews who commit crime against others Ezekiel 9:9,10 foretells their way shall certainly be brought in retribut upon their own head."

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