12th Apr 2024

German bank freezes account of Jewish peace group

  • The Jewish Voice for a Just Peace argues for a just peace between Palestine and Israel (Photo: Reham Alhelsi)
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A German state-owned bank has frozen the account of the anti-Zionist Jewish association, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, and demanded a list of associated members and their addresses.

In a letter the Berliner Sparkasse informed the Jewish association that it had blocked their account "out of precaution" and asked for "numerous internal documents" and a list of members to be sent to them by 5 April at the latest.

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According to the bank, this was necessary to "update our customer data", but the Jewish Voice disputed this explanation, noting in a public letter posted on their website on Wednesday (27 March) that it "sounded more like a letter sent by the intelligence service or police."

"The bank is a public organisation and may, therefore, not arbitrarily freeze accounts without providing an explanation, which it has not," the Jewish Voice wrote.

The bank did not respond despite requests for clarification. But the Jewish Voice liked the decision to freeze the account to their association with the Palestine Conference, which is taking place in Berlin from 12 to 14 April.

"The congress is financed by ticket sales and donations; we, the Jewish Voice, have made our account available for this purpose — which is why it has now been blocked," the organisation wrote.

"We will not be intimidated by this, even if we lose our account. Our position on genocide is derived from our Jewish values and is not dependent on financial resources," they added.

The congress is organised by The Left Berlin, a progressive organisation, and will host diverse speakers, including Francesca Albanese, the UN special representative for Palestine, and the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

The international NGO Human Rights Watch has alleged that the Israeli government is using starvation and hunger as tactics of warfare in the occupied Gaza Strip, constituting a war crime. Additionally, the EU's foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, stated in a speech at the European Humanitarian Forum in Brussels last week that "Israel is provoking famine."

The International Court of Justice in the Hague already ruled in February that Israel's actions in Gaza constituted a plausible case for genocide, and ordered it to minimise civilian deaths, which now stand at more than 31,000, with more uncounted bodies suspected to still be under the rubble of Gaza's ruins.

Not the first time

It is not the first time that a bank has targeted the anti-zionist organisation.

A bank account with the Bank für Sozialwirtschaft was closed in 2019 and previously in 2016 due to their backing of the "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)" campaign, as confirmed by the bank.

These closures resulted from pressure from the Central Council of Jews in Germany and were welcomed at the time by its president, Jozef Schuster, as "long overdue."

The BDS movement calls for economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land, grant Arab citizens equal rights and recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees and was condemned by the German parliament in a 2019 vote as anti-Semitic.

This week's decision by Berlin Sparkasse was made within a context of growing "political persecution" in Germany, according to the Jewish Voice, which stated it is "collaborating with Israel's apartheid and genocide."

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