A few days ago Israeli customers of Bank Leumi raised a furor over the inclusion of the far-right nationalist group Im Tirzu within a supposed non-political charity competition designed to promote the work of Israeli NGOs. The winning prize money totaled $500,000. After customers began removing their accounts from the bank in protest, other supporters of Im Tirzu actually voted en masse for the group and raised its ranking from 7th place to 2nd place as of two days ago.
An Israeli reader of this blog commented a few days ago that everyone should vote for Im Tirzu in order to embarrass the bank. Frankly, I thought the idea was cynical and felt it would be better to vote for other groups in opposition to Im Tirzu’s candidacy. Apparently, Israelis agreed with my Israeli reader and pumped up the group’s numbers. This had precisely the effect he envisioned.
Faced with the embarrassment of having to award nearly $100,000 to Im Tirzu if it actually won, along with the ensuing bad PR and customer withdrawals it would face, the Bank just decided to cancel the project entirely. Otherwise, it would’ve become known as the Bank of Settlers, a corporate beacon for Israeli nationalist ideology. It didn’t hurt the cause of protesters that they created a Facebook account called “Two Million Reasons to Leave Bank Leumi.”
The company’s blog, which takes a single line to announce the cancellation, expends an extraordinary amount of attention on praising the competition and its motives. When it finally gets around to talking tachlis, this is what it says:
While we were trying to do good, we found ourselves the target of public criticism, which damaged the NGOs themselves. A number of them came to us and said that the atmosphere created had cast a cloud on them and even harmed them.
Listening to the dialogue with our audience, we came to the conclusion that the model we created has not achieved its goal. Therefore we’ve decided to cancel the project and examine ways in which we might better achieve its objectives in the future.
Not a word about Im Tirzu, nor a word about the politicization of the competition that was caused by including it. The group will join all the others in receiving a $2,500 gift for its troubles.
Kol hakavod to Peace Now, which started the ball rolling, and to all the Israelis who protested this travesty and gained a victory in the war against Israeli bullies and ultra-nationalists like Im Tirzu. Another attempt at what I call blue-and-white washing has failed.