Anti-Is­rael group’s bank ac­count shut by Co-op

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

THECO-OPERATIVEBankhas­re­vealed it closed the Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign’s ac­count be­cause of fears that mon­ey­coul­d­inad­ver­tently­be­fun­nelled to il­le­gal groups in Gaza.

Fol­low­ing due dili­gence checks on the anti-Is­rael group’s ac­count, the bank said it was not sat­is­fied that it would not be used to aid pro­scribed ac­tiv­i­ties in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries.

The Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign launched a le­gal case against the bank this week and claimed the clo­sure amounted to “dis­crim­i­na­tion”.

A state­ment re­leased by the PSC on Tues­day re­vealed that at least 20 groups pur­su­ing anti-Is­rael cam­paigns had been af­fected. Ac­counts were closed last month by the bank, or ac­cess to fund­ing was de­nied.

In a state­ment the fol­low­ing day the bank said it was com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing char­i­ties, but needed to per­form due dili­gence checks on cus­tomers, their ac­counts and pay­ments. It must “en­sure the bank com­plies with an­ti­money laun­der­ing obli­ga­tions and to man­age the bank’s risk”.

Cus­tomers who send money to “very high-risk or high-risk lo­ca­tions through­out the world” re­quired ad­vanced checks, the bank said, “to en­sure that funds do not in­ad­ver­tently fund il­le­gal or other pro­scribed ac­tiv­i­ties”.

The bank said it would con­tinue to as­sist with a range of do­na­tions to Gaza through groups in­clud­ing Médecins Sans Fron­tières, Amnesty, and Ox­fam.

Lawyers for the PSC had claimed the Co-op had breached equal­ity leg­is­la­tion by tar­get­ing the group be­cause of its “co­gent be­lief in Pales­tinian rights”.

“A de­ci­sion based on ac­tive sup­port of Pales­tinian causes — or on the na­tion­al­ity or re­li­gion of the Pales­tinian peo­ple —wouldbe­dis­crim­i­na­tory,”as­tate­ment from the ITN law firm in Lon­don said.

PSC di­rec­tor Sarah Col­borne urged PSC mem­bers to move their per­sonal ac­counts from the Co-op. She said supporters were “an­gry and dis­ap­pointed at the Co-op­er­a­tive Bank which has turned its back on the eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples which drew so many of us to open ac­counts there in the first place”.

The Co-op an­gered Is­rael supporters in 2012 when its su­per­mar­ket arm ex­tended a boy­cott pol­icy against Is­rael to in­clude a bar on any en­gage­ment with Is­raeli sup­pli­ers that worked with West Bank set­tle­ments.

PSC branches across the coun­try had lob­bied the Co-op for the ban and sup­ported the mea­sures taken against Is­rael.

A num­ber of Bri­tish-based Mus­lim groups claimed the HSBC bank had closed their ac­counts last year be­cause of their at­tempts to raise funds for Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza.

Fears that money could in­ad­vertly fund il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties

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