Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, shows signs of mild embarrassment in the wake of reports that it had consigned Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, to a list of firms deemed too “ethically questionable” for investment by the ostensibly more ethically-minded investors.
Bank Hapoalim indeed featured on the list but Deutsche Bank later averred that this was merely a recommendation by an outside consultant from Denmark.
It needs be stressed that the actual damage to Bank Hapoalim is likely to be minimal at most. If anything, the impact on Deutsche Bank’s image would be more acute. It goes beyond the mere specter of a German financial giant boycotting a Jewish concern. Deutsche bank has a particularly dark past, even as far as veteran German corporations go.
It was the bank which underwrote the construction and operation of Auschwitz, a fact it kept under wraps until 1999. Much as today’s bank executives may righteously dissociate themselves from their institution’s past, the symbolism cannot be dodged. Already back in 1933 Deutsche Bank dismissed its Jewish employees and was then very active in what was euphemistically dubbed ”the Aryanization of Jewish businesses.” It was the Gestapo’s chief financier.
That may in part explain the alacrity to promote such initiatives as the “moral investment plan” which effectively blacklists Hapoalim. The morally superior facade may in itself provide a form of psychosocial uplift.
Be that as it may, there is effrontery in very notion of a bank with the most sinister of histories presuming to pass judgment on a Jewish bank for no other reason than its branches also operate beyond the non-border that is the 1949 armistice line (a.k.a. the Green Line). That suffices to lump Bank Hapoalim with some of the most unsavory arms dealers, etc.
Worse yet, Deutsche Bank isn’t alone, although there’s particular odium in this specific organization’s alacrity to conform to the edicts of Europe’s de rigueur political correctness.
Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, also placed Hapoalim on its blacklist, though Danske has never invested in Hapoalim. The Swedish-based Nordea Bank has approached Bank Leumi and Bank Mizrahi with inquiries about their across-the-Green-Line presence. Norwegian pension funds have likewise announced they won’t invest in given Israeli companies.
More than any of this impacts on the financial wellbeing of Israeli banking, however, it unmasks what lies beneath European sanctimony. The very fact that a situation, which has existed for nearly half-a-century, has so suddenly and contagiously begun to seemingly outrage so many in Europe, in itself raises moral questions – more about the organizers of the apparently obligatory outrage than about the actual Mideast situation.
Israel by no yardstick is an imperialist ogre but a tiny and vulnerable country which was forced to defend itself. At most the territories Israel controls are disputed and not occupied in the traditional sense. But the very companies, which attempt to boycott Israel, close their eyes to the true occupiers – all the way from Turkey and Morocco to China.
The double standards and demonization unleashed against Israel surely attest to something that runs deeper than the smug holier-than-thou criteria for doing business with the Jewish state.
The incontrovertible fact is that Israel has been singled out for abuse and slander. This allows it to be vituperated like no other state and there’s never any scrutiny before ultra-liberal Israel is castigated as a fascist and racist promoter of all sins – from apartheid to all-inclusive “crimes against humanity.” Any sort of mud may be slung at Israel collectively just as it once was slung in Europe against hapless Jews individually.
It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that, to say the least, Israel is being delegitimized by latter-day Judeophobes who cynically deny their Judeophobia.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted that “in the past anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state, and by the way, only the Jewish state. It is important that the boycotters be exposed for what they are – they are classical anti-Semites in modern garb.” To borrow his phrase, it’s indeed time to “delegitimize the delegitimizers.”