Dutch bank briefly divested from project in ‘contested’ Negev region


(JTA) — A Dutch bank reversed its position in an online charity contest to allow a project in the Negev following a protest by a pro-Israel group.

The removal was announced in a letter that the ASN Bank sent in July and reversed a month later.

“In essence, no part of the Negev is fully neutral or wholly uncontested,” a senior bank employee said in the letter removing the project from the online contest.

The letter was about a plan for an ecological village in the Negev. Jaakov Markus, a Dutch pro-Israel Christian, submitted the plan in the online contest that the bank organized for charity projects. The bank has pledged a $12,000 donation to the project with the most votes.

The July letter said the bank removed the project, which then ranked second most popular, in view of land claims by Bedouin, which meant that the project did not meet the bank’s ethical code.  

The project was allowed to re-enter the contest in late August after the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a Hague-based, pro-Israel organization, provided the bank with proof that Bedouin claims concern 4.55 percent of the Negev. CIDI also contacted the Dutch Banking Association on the issue, according to the CIDI website.

The project, titled Ecodorp, is now ranked sixth on the list, with 177 votes. The winner will be announced later this month.

The letter had been published on the Facebook page of the Netherlands Palestine Committee with a post that read: “Hah hah, the ASN Bank scrapped the project of that Zionist bungler. So your mails and letters helped us!”

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