Honenu launches legal campaign for Israeli citizens under sanctions

Honenu Director Meidad; Photo credit: Honenu

Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 15:06 Honenu has launched a campaign to support the Israeli citizens on whom America and Britain have recently imposed sanctions, especially to assist the citizens whose bank accounts were frozen after the sanctions were imposed. Honenu engaged the law firm Dr. J. Weinroth & Co. to represent the citizens. Attorneys Dr. Yechiel Weinroth, Meir Abraham, and Yagel David of the firm wrote a letter to the Israeli Supervisor of Banks, Daniel Hahiashvili, asking him to order the banks to lift the restrictions imposed on the settlers’ bank accounts.

In their letter, the attorneys cited a similar case in which the banks were required to take steps regarding their customers. When war broke out in Ukraine, Yair Avidan, then Supervisor of the Banks, issued a letter to the banks asking them to strike a balance between the demand to freeze accounts and the rights of customers. No such request has been made in the current situation. The attorneys wrote, “After the war was opened against Ukraine, sanctions were imposed on the government of Russia. Because of those sanctions, bank customers, new immigrants [to Israel], were prevented from receiving money from their Russian bank accounts. Considering that, then Supervisor of Banks, Mr. Yair Avidan, found it correct to dispatch a clarification letter to banks demanding that they balance the two [issues; sanctions and customers’ rights]: ‘[On one hand] managing the risks considering the significant exposure to violation or circumvention of the international sanctions by regimes, and on the other, the obligation to provide service to customers.’ In an additional letter, the Supervisor clarified to the banks that they must act ‘with great sensitivity. In the attorney’s words:

“To our great disappointment, this was not done regarding our clients, whose accounts were, in effect, destroyed, categorically, and with no exceptions, and with no prior warning. The Postal Bank froze Mr. and Mrs. Hasdai’s account; Bank Leumi froze Mr. and Mrs. Levi’s account; Bank Hapoalim restricted Mr. and Mrs. Zicherman’s accounts, and Mr. Tanjil’s account; Bank Yahav went so far as to restrict Mrs. Levi’s personal account in every way, even though no sanctions were imposed on her. Her only ‘sin’ is being Mr. Levi’s wife.”

The attorneys clarify that the order signed by President Biden based on which the banks blocked the citizens’ accounts does not specify that the settlers injured Palestinians: “Examination of the [executive] order indicates that it came into being based on extremely general claims that are not backed by even one iota of evidence on any of our clients. Their basis is ‘high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction’ that ‘has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region.’ These general claims – that have never been examined in fair judicial proceedings that grant the affected parties their right to plead their cases – were the foundation of the severe personal sanctions imposed on our clients by this order.”

In conclusion, the attorneys request that the Supervisor of Banks order the banks to lift the restrictions imposed on the citizens’ bank accounts and specifically: “We ask you to order the banking corporations to immediately lift every restriction and/or unfreeze from every kind of bank account of the spouses of the individuals whose names were stipulated in the [executive] order that cannot be binding on them.”

Attorney Meir Abraham of Dr. J. Weinroth & Co stated, “To our great disappointment, the Bank of Israel granted backing to the blocking actions carried out by the banks, with no reservations, despite also freezing the private accounts of the wives of the recipients of the order. In an urgent letter to the Supervisor of the Banks, we clarified the actions are contrary to the law, and the established rule of law, and what is most absurd, even contrary to the provisions of the system for oversight of the banks itself. As if that were not enough, also recently the court ruled again that the refusal of the banks to exercise discretion as to the manners in which they may continue to manage a customer’s account without exposure to sanctions is intolerable. Our letter to the Supervisor is the first action in the framework of legal proceedings that we intend to take as long as the cardinal offense that we indicated is not rectified.”

Shmuel (Zangi) Meidad, Honenu director, added, “We will continue to stand by the heroic, persecuted Israeli citizens, and provide them with optimal legal counsel in the face of these draconian, antisemitic orders. We expect the government of Israel to decisively clarify to the so-called ‘friends from across the ocean’ that it will not allow this injustice to occur.”

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