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Germany-Israël: Crackdown on Human rights activists Jewish organization

Thursday 8 December 2016, by siawi3

Source: Jüdische Simme /European Jews for a Just Peace / Germany

Berlin, Tuesday December 6, 2016

Press Release

The German “Bank for Social Economy” (Bank fuer Sozialwirtschaft AG)
has closed the account of a Jewish peace organization.

As a result of pressure from a right wing nationalist smear campaign, the Bank for Social Economy (Bank für Sozialwirtschaft) has terminated the account of the group “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” (Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost”. In addition to this, members of the bank have also broken laws concerning bank secrecy. Leading politicians and organisations have protested against this attack on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.

The “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (JS)” was founded thirteen years ago as the German section of the group “European Jews for a Just Peace”. The organization has since worked both in Germany and the EU toward the implementation of universal human rights in Israel and Palestine and also for a just and peaceful resolution of the conflicts between these two peoples. The main purpose of the organization is to provide a platform for people of Jewish heritage so that they may actively pursue the goals mentioned above, and in order to help bring about a peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens in this country.

Six weeks ago, a letter arrived from the Bank for Social Economy (BSW), where the JS held its account. The letter stated that this account would be terminated at the end of the year, without giving any reasons. Shortly after this, the Board of the JS received an email with questions concerning the termination of the account by a journalist named Benjamin Weinthal. The JS had informed no one that the account had been terminated. Weinthal works for the right-wing newspaper the “Jerusalem Post” and is notorious for working together with right wing radical Israeli organizations and politicians to lead smear campaigns against human rights organizations. His email query remained unanswered. Nonetheless he published an article concerning the termination of the JS bank account and additionally disseminated defamatory insinuations and misrepresentations about the JS. The article makes it apparent that members of the bank revealed information about our account. This represents a grave infringement on the legally mandated provisions for bank secrecy. In a personal discussion between the bank’s board of directors and the board of the JS, which took place later, the (ostensible) political stance and activities of the JS were explicitly named as the reasons for the termination of the account.

We see the closing of our account as part of a comprehensive anti-democratic campaign by the Netanyahu administration and its supporters to silence organizations that fight for the upholding of human rights in Israel and Palestine. In the past few years a number of laws have been passed in Israel whose purpose is to make the work of peace organizations impossible and in particular to sabotage their financial independence. That German institutions import such repressive courses of action, which stand in direct contradiction to the German constitution, is something that we as a Jewish minority regard as particularly threatening. We are shocked that an institution such as the Bank for Social Economy AG (BSW) has bowed to the pressure of a right wing journalist and revealed bank secrets. That the bank dares to close the account of a Jewish organization because it stands for Jewish values such as justice and respect for human dignity is something we find absolutely scandalous.

In spite of protests in solidarity with us from numerous organizations such as Pax Christi, IPPNW, the International League for Human Rights as well as from several members of the German Bundestag from the Left Party (die Linke), the SPD and the Green Party, the bank was unwilling to rescind its decision to terminate the account. Activists and organizations that are sympathetic to our organization have said this is an unprecedented case of political censorship against a Jewish organization in the Federal Republic of Germany. They will not tolerate this action and plan to close their accounts with the Bank for Social Economy (BSW) in protest.