Israel fears boycott call behind French megabank pull out

Issue 

Israeli officials suspect that France-based megabank BNP Parisbas has pulled out of Israel due to pressure from Palestine solidarity groups, even though the bank itself has denied this.

Israeli paper Haaretz reported on 24 November: “The powers that be are furious at BNP Paribas for shuttering its operations in Israel, and suspect it is acting due to Arab and anti-Israeli pressure in France, the bank’s home base.

“Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Banks Supervisor David Zaken and their top officials believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, contrary to its claims.

“This is the first case in years of a foreign bank leaving Israel. BNP Paribas has had operations in Israel since 2003. Most of its business here involved financing large projects that involve French companies.”

Israeli business news website Globes had previously reported on 15 November that the closure of the BNP Parisbas Israeli branch — leading to some 50 layoffs — was for business reasons: “Banking sources believe that BNP is closing the branch because of its inability to gain a substantial standing in the business credit to large companies market ...

“BNP Israel tried to focus on credit for infrastructures, water, energy, transportation, and renewable energy, but was unable to consolidate a strong position in the market.”

The reports about what exactly motivated BNP Paribas’s decision are inconclusive, but the fact that Israeli officials suspect it was as a result of civil society pressure over Israel’s human rights abuses is itself significant.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]