The French bank, BNP Paribas, has decided to cease operations inside Israel, after the bank was targeted by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which aims to use economic pressure to get Israel to adhere to its obligations and abide by international law.Although the bank stated that its withdrawal from Israel was not due to the pressure campaign, but instead due to heavy losses sustained during the Greek financial crisis, Israeli officials and bankers have stated that they believe the bank gave in to pressure from European human rights groups to pull out of Israel.
BNB Paribas will close its offices and lay off sixty employees in Israel, and will end its financing of projects in the Jewish state.
The Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, told reporters from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that he had met with top executives from BNB Paribas several times, and exchanged harsh words with them when they announced their decision to leave Israel.
The Bank of Israel is a private institution that prints currency for the Israeli government and regulates interest rates in Israel. It is the successor to the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which carried out those functions until 1948, when the state of Israel was created on the land of historic Palestine.
BDS campaigners have targeted banks, financial institutions, businesses and universities around the world that have investments inside Israel. The movement has compared itself to the anti-apartheid movement against the white South African government in the 1980s. Some of the main organizers of the BDS campaign against Israel are South Africans who compare the situation of Palestinians to that of black South Africans under the racist apartheid system. The group includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Nelson Mandela, and the largest trade union in South Africa, COSATU.
In recent years, the BDS movement has succeeded in convincing dozens of businesses to pull out of Israel; including the Deutsche Bank divesting from Elbit, a company involved in construction of the Israeli Annexation Wall; the Norwegian government’s divestment from an Israeli security firm; and Harvard University’s decision to divest from Israeli companies.
The group hopes that by using economic pressure, they can convince the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinian land, and cease its discriminatory laws that target Palestinians.