BERLIN (JTA) — Germany has banned an organization that directly supports Hamas in Gaza.
In a statement issued Monday, Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere of the Christian Democratic Union announced that his office had banned the Frankfurt-based International Humanitarian Aid Organization, or IHH, effective immediately.
With millions of dollars in donations each year, IHH in Germany directly supports Hamas, "whose charter denies Israel’s right to exist and promotes the use of violence to achieve its political and religious goals," the statement read in part.
"Organizations that operate from German soil, directly or indirectly, with the aim of fighting Israel’s right to exist, have forfeited their right to freedom of association," it concluded.
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin told JTA that it greeted the announcement "with great satisfaction."
It was a "long overdue" move, according to Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Hamas is a threat "not only [to] Israel and Jews but the entire free world — including Germany," Kramer told JTA. Yet "many people in Germany think of Hamas as a group of freedom fighters who should even be considered as ‘partners for peace’ in the Mideast. That’s insane."
The IHH in Frankfurt has denied any connections with the Turkish-based organization of the same name that sponsored the recent ill-fated flotilla ship, the Mavi Mamara, which challenged Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Three parliamentarians from the German Left Party were on board that boat.
Although its logo is virtually identical to the group in Germany, the IHH in Turkey does not list the group in Germany on its website.
The announced ban may be seen as a retort to the German Parliament, which recently passed a unanimous, multi-party motion demanding that Israel drop its blockade of Gaza. Critics say the German-based group ultimately shares the same goals as the Turkish one — provoking conflict with Israel.
In his statement, Minister De Maizière said IHH "knowingly and deliberately supports organizations that either are under Hamas control or support Hamas themselves."
A 2004 German Federal Administrative Court decision said Hamas’ "social projects cannot be separated from its terrorist and political actions."
Germany already has banned two other organizations with financial ties to Hamas — al-Aqsa e.V. and YATIM-Kinderhilfe e.V.
According to the Federal Department for Constitutional Protection, Hamas, which the European Union designates as a terror organization, has some 300 members in Germany.