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- A network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) groups are active in promoting boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in Germany. These campaigns include Deustche Bank’s divestment from Elbit (2010) and a push for labeling of products from settlements.
- BDS actors include Kritische Aktionäre, a SRI organization that promotes shareholder activism and the advancement of an anti-Israeli divestment agenda; Pax Christi-Germany, a Catholic organization that promotes BDS and lobbies the German government to adopt anti-Israel policies; and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a radical international NGO also active in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- In order to advance their BDS agenda, these groups distort legal narratives to falsely accuse Israel of human rights violations and erroneously argue that conducting business with Israel amounts to furthering these alleged violations.
- As part of this anti-Israeli narrative, NGOs promote the claim that it is illegal and unethical to conduct business with Jews over the 1949 armistice lines. This has no foundation in international law and has been consistently denied by courts in several countries.
The BDS-NGO network in Germany
- Kritische Aktionäre is a shareholders’ organization founded in the 1980s to promote environmental protection, non-violence, and company transparency. It participates in company shareholder meetings and urges executive bodies to change business policies according to its agenda. The organization calls for an arms embargo against Israel, singling out that country among all other conflict zones.
- Pax Christi-Germany is the German chapter of the global Catholic organization Pax Christi. Pax Christi is active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and promotes the de-legitimization of Israel by supporting the Palestinian narrative of Nakba and victimization. It cooperates with several pro-BDS religious networks and programs, such as the Kairos Palestine network, the World Council of Churches, and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel.
- In a 2010 position paper titled “An undivided solidarity for a just peace” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pax Christi-Germany states that the conflict is asymmetric because of the Israeli occupation and accuses Israel of systematic violations of international law. The organization suggests that Holocaust memory is a reason why Germany supports “the problematic positions of the Israeli government.”
- Pax Christi-Germany cooperates with radical Israeli NGOs, such as Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and New Profile, and religious groups such as Kairos Palestine and Sabeel, which promote an anti-Israeli agenda through the political and theological delegitimization of Jews and Zionism.
- Dr. Manfred Budzinski, spokesperson for Pax Christi-Germany’s Near East Commission, is a lecturer at the Evangelical theological center Evangelische Akademie Bad Boll, and was involved in organizing the 2014 Week for Palestine with the Evangelical Church of Wüttenberg. The week was dedicated to Palestinian “political prisoners,” a term that includes murderers and other individuals convicted of serious violent crimes.
- IPPNW-Germany is the German chapter of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which claims to promote conflict prevention and non-nuclear proliferation. IPPNW is active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, where it focuses on “awareness of the nuclear danger and especially the Israeli nuclear weapons program.”
- Misereor is the aid framework of the Catholic Church in Germany, and many of its grantees play central roles in BDS and demonization campaigns against Israel, including Zochrot and Breaking the Silence.
Deutsche Bank divestment from Elbit
- In May 2010, Deutsche Bank divested from the Israeli company Elbit after a sustained BDS campaign organized by the NGOs Pax Christi-Germany and IPPNW, in cooperation with the German shareholders association Kritische Aktionäre (critical shareholders).
- These organizations pursued a BDS agenda through shareholder activism.
- The NGOs accused Elbit of violating international law by supplying monitoring devices for Israel’s security barrier. In fact, the purpose of these devices was defensive, helping to significantly reduce suicide bombings within Israel and saving civilian lives.
- These NGOs’ failure to acknowledge Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens from terror attacks and the human rights of Israeli civilians to be free of such attacks is itself immoral and unethical.
- Since 2004, Deutsche Bank has held sessions for shareholder inquiries on SRI (Deutsche Bank 2005 CSR report, p. 102). At the May 2010 meeting, the German association Kritische Aktionäre advised shareholders to question the Bank’s board regarding its business relationship with Elbit.
- Referring to the Norwegian and the Swedish Ethical Council’s advisory opinions to divest from Elbit, Kritische Aktionäre proposed that Deutsche Bank also divest from the Israeli company.
- Kritische Aktionäre relied on the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion, which deemed the security barrier illegal. Kritische Aktionäre did not specify that the opinion is not legally binding. Moreover, the organization dismissed the barriers’ stated objective, which, as noted, is to protect Israeli civilians from terror attacks.
- IPPNW’s Sabine Farrouh spoke at the session and confirmed the NGO’s anti-Israeli bias by identifying Israel’s settlement, and war policies as the sole causes of the conflict, and accusing Israel of systematic violations of international law (“collective punishment”) by imposing a blockade on Gaza and carrying out physical attacks on individuals (terrorists wanted for murdering civilians).
- Farrouh erased basic facts such as the control of Gaza by the Hamas terror group, necessitating an embargo to impede illegal weapons smuggling and attacks against civilians.
- IPPNW distorted the legal narrative, stating that investment in Elbit amounted to profiting from breaches of international law – specifically in reference to the barrier, deemed illegal –and to furthering human rights violations. IPPNW ignored that international humanitarian and human rights law requires the exact opposite of what the NGO advocated.
- Wiltrud Rostch-Meltzer of Pax Christi also presented at the meeting. He demonized Israel by calling the security fence an “apartheid wall,” and falsely accused Israel of impeding access to health and educational institutions, uprooting olive trees, and violating international human rights and humanitarian law.
- Rostch-Meltzer referred to the UN initiative on business and human rights, Global Compact Principles, of which Deutsche Bank is member, immorally suggesting that the Bank was non-compliant with these principles due to its relations with Elbit.
Other divestment campaigns by Kritische Aktionäre
- On January 18, 2013, Kritische Aktionäre participated in the company ThyssenKrupp AG’s general assembly, questioning the company’s arms commerce policy to certain States including Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Colombia, and others.
- Referring to submarines purchased by Israel and fabricated by ThyssenKrupp, the Kritische Aktionäre speaker pointed out that Israel holds nuclear weapons and has not yet signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, implying that Israel would use its nuclear arsenal as a result to its business with the company.
- The same concerns were expressed at ThyssenKrupp’s January 20, 2012 meeting.
- At Heidelberg Cement’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 6,2014, Kritische Aktionäre and Pax Christi-Germany (the Near East Commission and the Baden-Wüttenberg chapter) requested that the company cut off its relations with Hanson Israel for its involvement in building in Atarot and Beitar Illit, locations that either straddle the 1949 Armistice Line or are located only a few meters from it.
- In a previous letter, Kritische Aktionäre asked Heidelberg Cement for an explanation of Israeli investments in connection to Cemex.
- In this, the NGOs rely on distortions of international law in order to promote the claim that it is illegal and unethical to conduct business with Jews over the 1949 armistice lines. This has no foundation in international law and has been consistently denied by courts in several countries.
- In 2011, Kritische Aktionäre took part in an anti-weapon campaign that lobbied the Members of Parliament of the Christian Democrat party to disrupt Germany’s arms trade with Israel and other states accused of not respecting international humanitarian standards. This campaign was conducted in cooperation with other NGOs including Brot für die Welt, Evangelische Entwicklungdienst, SODI (Solidarität Dienst), Terres des Hommes, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam Germany, Caritas, and Facing Finance.
- In 2009, Kritische Aktionäre promoted a campaign against Mercedes for its purported links to the weapons industry; the campaign specifically accused the Israel Defense Forces of using cluster munitions that were allegedly launched by Mercedes-produced vehicles.
Product labeling campaigns
- In 2013, Pax Christi-Germany, in cooperation with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), lobbied the German Foreign Ministry to introduce Israeli settlement product labeling. Pax Christi-Germany does not call for a boycott or product labeling for any other conflict or human rights situation.
- Pax Christi-Germany is a member of Pax Christi International, a global Catholic NGO that promotes political and theological delegitimization of Israel.
- The Near East Commission of Pax Christi-Germany leads the BDS campaign “Besatzung schmeckt bitter” (the occupation tastes bitter), which urges labeling and boycott of Israeli agricultural products that originate beyond the 1949 Armistice Line.
- Pax Christi-Germany falsely accuses Israel of exploiting and extracting natural resources from the West Bank through a “systematic policy of settlement, closure, and separation.”
- The campaign relies on the misapplication of European Union legal sources, including its guidelines for the program Horizon2020 that excludes research institutes located beyond the 1949 Armistice Line from research funding.
- In 2012, Misereor together with Brot für die Welt, endorsed the policy of labeling goods produced over the 1949 Armistice line as part of the wider BDS campaign.
- Misereor also sponsored a 2013 conference, in conjunction with the 2nd Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, which featured an official from Al-Haq and brought “together representatives of affected communities in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT)… to present case studies on the impact of extractive industry operations in their respective locations.” Al Haq is a leader in the anti-Israel “lawfare” and BDS campaigns.