US Senator: Investigate German bank for anti-Semitic BDS support
WASHINGTON DC — A leading US Senator called on Wednesday for an investigation into Germany’s second largest bank, Commerzbank, because of possible violations of the Illinois State anti-BDS law that seeks to stop boycotts of Israel.
“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 [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] groups, and I urge the Illinois Investment Policy Board to investigate these reports under our state’s first-in-the-nation anti-BDS law,” US Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, told The Jerusalem Post in a statement.
Kirk, who played a critical role in crafting Iran nuclear and human rights sanctions legislation, is the first Senator to weigh in on German banks enabling BDS groups to wage economic warfare against the Jewish state.
Kirk added “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.”
The Democratic and Republican Senate proposed anti-BDS legislation has gained considerable traction during this legislative period. Senator Kirk’s statement said: “The necessity of enacting the Combating BDS Act of 2016 became all the more urgent after the Illinois Investment Policy Board (IIPB) recently approved the identification of 11 companies that boycott Israel and deemed these companies as prohibited from investment through laws set forth in Article 1 of the Illinois Pension Code.So far, 19 Senators have co-sponsored the bipartisan Combating BDS Act of 2016 (S. 2531).”
The German bank system, including BW and Sparkasse banks, provide a number of accounts to BDS groups. BDS-Austria has its account with the financial giant Erste Group in Vienna. Erste Group has a branch office in New York.
Commerzbank permits a BDS account for a hardcore anti-Israel magazine and website that seeks the abolition of the Jewish state. The website has defended the lethal anti-Semitism of Hamas–a U.S and EU designated terrorist entity.
Commerzbank has flouted U.S law covering transactions with regimes that sponsor terrorism and engage in widespread human rights violations. The bank’s criminal business practices and its lack of transparency led to severe financial penalties. The Frankfurt-based bank paid the US government $1.45 billion in 2015 for violations sanctions targeting Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
Kirk’s criticism of pro-BDS German banks was in response to a Post investigative series on European banks furnishing accounts to BDS groups and Israel ‘s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan ‘s warning that German banks face “potential legal, reputational and ethical consequences” of facilitating accounts used by anti-Semitic BDS groups.
Commerzbank has declined to answer detailed Post queries about the BDS account and Commerzbank’s financial investments in the U.S. “We expressly point out again that Commerzbank adheres to the applicable compliance guidelines and regulations regarding the conduct of an account,” Gunnar Meyer, a Commerzbank spokesman, told the Post on Friday.
The Post uncovered a neo-Nazi party BDS account with the BW Bank, which is the account for the pro-BDS group Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
The BW bank account for the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) party in Germany is a new headache for the BW because of growing consumer complaints about BW’s account with the anti-Israel Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
The NPD branch in southern city of Stuttgart, where BW is located, lists a BW account on its website. The account for NPD donations states: NPD-Stuttgart, Kto.Nr.: 251 42 88, BLZ: 600 501 01, BW-Bank.
In 2009, Jürgen Rieger, then-deputy chairman of the NPD and a denier of the Holocaust, called on Germans to boycott Israel.
Christian Potthoff, a spokesman for BW, refused to answer multiple Post email queries about BW financial services to the neo-Nazi party and the shared anti-Israel goals of the NPD and Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
BW’s New York City office declined to respond to Post telephone and email requests. Janus Nowak, the neo-Nazi representative listed on the website’s donation webpage, did not answer Post queries. According to a 2010 Schwäbisches Tagblatt article, Nowak was convicted of incitement to hatred for calling Jewish prisoners of the Nazis “war prisoners.”
The BW is owned by the financial institution Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW).
According to a 2004 study by Ludolf Herbs and Thomas Weihe titled “The Commerzbank and the Jews 1933-1945,” Commerzbank’s “participation in anti-Semitic measures was an important part of the business practices of the Commerzbank” during the Holocaust.