Israeli Bank's Holocaust Day Facebook Status Triggers Storm of Angry Talkbacks

Facebook users attack Bank Leumi's status – 'Leumi marks the memory of the Holocaust's victims' – in wake of the bank's drawn-out legal battle with the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets.

A Facebook status published by Bank Leumi to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day triggered dozens of furious responses, an apparent backlash to the bank's lengthy legal bout with a firm responsible for the retrieval of funds deposited by Holocaust victims.

The status line, which read "Leumi marks the memory of the Holocaust's victims," garnered talkbacks such as "Leumi, maybe return the theft instead of remembering"; "Leumi definitely marks, their bank accounts"; "marks the memory of the victims of Leumi accounts"; and "some of them die while you mark."

Hundreds of Facebook users responded to the status update, with the Bank's Facebook officials deleting dozens.

Last year, Bank Leumi agreed to transfer NIS 130 million to Holocaust survivors and heirs of victims under a settlement approved by the bank and the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets.

The agreement marks the end of the state-established company's NIS 300 million lawsuit against the bank from June 2009, for funds deposited in 3,577 accounts before World War II by Jews who later died in the Holocaust. The parties turned to arbitration early last year, through the mediation of MK Zeev Bielski (Kadima ).

In a statement, Bank Leumi said that "Leumi, along with its thousands of workers, wished to mark the importance of this day, while expressing deep empathy, as many groups and companies chose to do. We wish to clarify that Bank Leumi, along with the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets, reached an agreement to end the affair last year."

The internet protest marked the second in recent memory in which the bank suffered an internet backlash.

Bank Leumi protest - 2009
Dan Keinan

Late last year, Leumi halted its "Two Million Good Reasons" project, due to public pressure over the participation of the rightist Im Tirzu group.

The project had allowed internet users to vote on which philanthropic groups should receive charitable donations from Bank Leumi.

A statement released by Bank Leumi said at the time that the project "was successful and achieved its goal…We had good intentions, but found ourselves the traget of public criticism, which also hurt NGOs. A number of the participating NGOs turned to us and said that the atmosphere surrounding the project was overshadowing them and was even harming them."

"We reached an understanding that at this time the model we adopted had not achieved its goal. Therefore, we decided that should stop the project at this point, and examine alternate routes to achieve the project's goals."

Bank Leumi said the 139 NGOs that participated in the project will each receive NIS 10,000 to cover their expenses. The remaining NIS 600,000 will be earmarked for initiatives and projects promoting education, community and welfare in Israel.

Public outcry arouse after the head of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, criticized the project over the participation of Im Tirzu, announcing he was closing his Bank Leumi account.

In response, Facebook group called "Two Million Reasons to Leave Leumi" was founded. Group members said that they intended to leave Bank Leumi over the participation the the project by an "extremist right-wing" group.

The Facebook group stated that "Bank Leumi is a private, non-political body. Our money cannot be used to fund political groups, particularly extremist bodies like Im Tirzu that clearly advocate for political oppression and silencing."