The intelligence agency for the German state of Baden-Württemberg referred to the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement as a "new variation of antisemitism" in its newly released May intelligence report.
In its report, the intelligence agency specifically targeted an anti-Israel group that supports BDS.
This is believed to be the first instance of a German domestic intelligence agency labeling BDS as antisemitic and a security threat.
The intelligence report, which was published on May 24, said propaganda by the neo-Nazi party Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way) to boycott Israeli products "roughly recalls similar measures against German Jews by the National Socialists, for example, on April 1 1933 (the slogan: 'Germans! Defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!')."
The intelligence agency wrote that this list "deals with the new variation of antisemitism: anti-Zionist antisemitism."
The intelligence organization's full name — the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution — monitors threats to Germany's democratic, constitutional order and is the rough equivalent of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
The Nazi organization calls Israel a "terror state" and the "Zionist abscess." The intelligence agency copied graphics from the Third Way's website showing a Palestinian flag with the words "Freedom for Palestine" over a person whose mouth is covered with an Israeli flag. A second graphic included in the report reads "Boycott products from Israel: 729=Made in Israel." The number 792 is the product code to identify Israeli goods.
The intelligence agency quoted a January 2017 text from The Third Way's website stating that "the Israeli economy is very dependent on exports... and therefore, as active help for the Palestinian freedom struggle, one should avoid Israeli products when shopping in local supermarkets and all products manufactured by foreign companies that invest in Israel."
According to the Baden-Württemberg intelligence report, The Third Way's articles range from "right-wing extremism to neo-Nazi."
In 2017, The Jerusalem Post reported that The Third Way's website published a report on the group’s visit to Lebanon to champion Hezbollah’s 2006 war against Israel.
The Third Way uses the online payment service PayPal to raise funds for its activities. When asked about the Third Way, a PayPal representative told the Post: "Due to customer confidentiality, we cannot comment on the details of any specific PayPal account. However, we would like to stress that PayPal has zero tolerance for the use of our secure payments platform to facilitate illegal activities. We make every effort to comply with laws and regulations around the world. Compliance with these laws is something we take very seriously. We carefully review questionable activities reported to us, and discontinue our relationship with account holders found to violate our policies."
Labeling BDS as antisemitic could have far-reaching consequences for German politicians and public and private organizations that engage in pro-BDS activity.
Several German banks retain BDS-related accounts. The Bank for Social Economy holds four accounts enabling BDS — the highest number in Germany, according to research conducted by the Post.
Last week, German Jewish shareholders called for a probe into the bank's BDS-linked accounts. The Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany is a partial owner of the Bank for Social Economy and has told the bank to terminate its promotion of BDS activity.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center told the Post that the bank's top executives — Harald Schmitz, Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis — could land on the organization's list of the year’s worst outbreaks of antisemitism because of the bank's ties with BDS groups.
When asked about the intelligence report, Schmitz, the bank's chairman, did not immediately respond to a Post query.
Nathan Gelbart, a prominent lawyer who has won high-profile cases against Jewish antisemites in Germany, blasted the bank’s executives last week for stoking antisemitism via their support for the BDS group Jüdische Stimme (Jewish Voice).
“A bank that voluntarily provides service to antisemites makes common cause with Jew-hatred,” Gelbart told the Post. Jewish Voice has equated Israel with Nazi Germany.