The bank, which operates more than 1,100 branches worldwide and employs 51,300 people, is understood to be the first German bank to censure the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) group which encourages businesses and companies to stop doing business with Israel as a protest against that country’s 49-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The story of the bank account closure was revealed by The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The respected daily newspaper quoted ‘a highly reliable source’ as telling it the BDS account had been “dealt with.”
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised the bank for its move and called on other banks to follow in its footsteps. “I welcome and commend the decision by Commerzbank and other European banks to close the accounts of BDS organisations,” he said Tuesday. “This is the right thing to do from both a legal, financial and moral perspective. The BDS campaign, which seeks the destruction of Israel, is discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-peace, and often has connections to extremist and terrorist groups.”
“I call on other banks to follow Commerzbank’s example, particularly those with connections to official state bodies which claim to oppose BDS. I will continue to work to expose the true face of the BDS extremists and their supporters, and to ensure that they face the full consequences of their actions,” Erdan added.
The Commerzbank closure of the BDS account follows a call by it to do so two months ago by an Illinois senator who noted the bank had branches in Illinois and New York, and urged the Illinois regulator to investigate the bank’s allowing a BDS group to operate an account.
“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 groups, and I urge the Illinois Investment Policy Board to investigate these reports under our state’s first-in-the-nation anti-BDS law,” Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said in a statement in April.
“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 senator said.
Commerzbank refused to confirm or deny the account closure. “We cannot because of data protection and bank secrecy laws answer questions regarding existing account relationship,.” the bank’s spokesman Michael Machaue told the Post. “Commerzbank adheres to all compliance standards and regulations governing accounts.”
The latest move by a European bank is one of many in recent months. Austrian bank Bawag shuttered the account of the Austria-Arab Culture Center last week. Last month PayPal and Credit Mutuel closed the accounts of BDS in France. Austria’s giant Erste Group closed BDS Austria’s account in April.