What do we know about Hamas?
Hamas is a militant movement and one of the Palestinian territories’ two major political parties. It governs more than two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but the group is best known for its armed resistance to Israel. Dozens of countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, though some apply this label only to its military wing.
Iran provides Hamas with material and financial support, and Turkey reportedly harbors some of its top leaders. Its rival party, Fatah, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and rules in the West Bank, has renounced violence. The split in Palestinian leadership and Hamas’s unwavering hostility toward Israel have diminished prospects for stability in Gaza.
Germany bans the Hamas flag as well as PKK symbols under new ‘terror’ rules. Germany was moved to ban the Hamas flag in response to reports of violence and anti-Semitism at demonstrations in Germany, an official said on 25June 2021. Germany’s Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, has passed a law outlawing symbols of groups designated as terrorist organizations by the European Union, including the Hamas Palestinian movement.
The new law passed and was approved by the Bundesrat (upper house), and also outlawed symbols of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which are listed as a “terrorist” group by Turkey and its Western allies.
In revealing the funds of the Hamas Palestinian movement, on 16th August 2021 the German newspaper Die Welt published exclusive documents from Western security agencies stating that since the beginning of 2018, the Palestinian movement has had a secret international investment portfolio and assets estimated by Hamas itself at about 338 million dollars. However, its real value exceeds more than half a billion dollars.
According to the newspaper, the portfolio includes about 40 companies controlled internationally by Hamas. These companies are mainly active in the construction sector and located in several countries, but only a handful of Hamas officials know about these investments.
On 5 May 2021, Germany banned a purported aid organization, Ansaar International, accusing it of collecting donations to help finance terrorism worldwide. The decision came along with a series of raids on properties in ten states, with investigators also seizing items.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer “has banned the association Ansaar International and its related organizations. “The network finances terrorism worldwide with donations,” tweeted Ministry spokesman Steve Alter. In 2018 alone, it collected 8 to 10 million Euros in donations, according to its first chairman.
However, the Interior Ministry said that the funds are in fact raised with the intention of financing foreign groups such as Palestinian group Hamas as well as the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab and Jabhat al-Nusra.
German police raided offices of several non-governmental organizations, alleging that they provided support to the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
Around 90 properties across Germany, including offices of WWR Help und Ansaar International, were searched by the police, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
“There are indications that they have provided financial and propaganda support to Hamas,” the Ministry said.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stressed that Germany will not allow charities to provide support to the Gaza-based Hamas group, arguing that German laws prohibit activities that violate the principle of international peaceful understanding.
The European Union keeps Hamas on the terror list
The European Union keeps Hamas on its terror list, despite strong objections by the Palestinian group, which describes itself as a national liberation movement practicing all types of legitimate resistance against the Israeli occupation. The German newspaper "Die Welt" quotes what it describes as “Western security circles” as saying that the head of that investment portfolio in Turkey is a person residing in Lebanon and traveling frequently to Turkey. A large part of the proceeds goes to Gaza and to the financing of Hamas activities abroad, and to the salaries of leaders, some of whom are Arabs in Israel.
The newspaper reported, quoting its Western security sources, that "between 30 and 40 percent of the funds are used to carry out military operations and terrorist objectives." According to the newspaper, the movement uses the same tools of organized crime: “hawalat” money changers instead of banks to transfer money to Gaza and to evade tax authorities in the countries in which it operates. As another example, the newspaper reported that it is receiving apartment rents in cash and not through banks.
German Security revealed Hamas network
The Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (Internal Intelligence) in North Rhine-Westphalia for the year 2017 revealed extensive contacts between the two organizations. According to the report, intensive cooperation efforts were monitored between Ansar International and other individuals affiliated with extremist Salafist circles. The internal intelligence revealed in its report that “there are overlaps between this organization and the banned ALDEEN ALHAAQ and IQRAA organizations,” explaining that this indicates that the “Ansar International” organization as an alternative to the banned organizations, which were campaigning to distribute copies of the Qur’an in the streets.
Hamas ran networks inside Germany despite the censorship, Maya Margate wrote in the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post on 12 April 2019. She indicated that experts in the fight against terrorism revealed that the Palestinian Hamas movement has woven a hidden network of relationships in Germany, despite the fact that hundreds of its supporters are under surveillance.
Janis Jost, an analyst at the Center for Research, Terrorism, and Extremism in the German city of Kiel, said that the local intelligence and security agencies "have been monitoring Hamas supporters in this country for more than a decade," explaining that the number surveilled reached at least 300 people since 2007.
"But the problem lies in the fact that these members do not, of course, work in the name of Hamas, but have taken other organizations as a cover for their activity." She pointed to the repeated discovery of evidence of financial, institutional, and propaganda links to Hamas in a number of charitable organizations. Jost stated that after finding such evidence, the organization will be dissolved, as happened in 2002 with the "Al-Aqsa" association, and in 2005 with the "Al-Yatim" association. Jost asserts that one of the reasons Hamas is able to re-emerge in Germany so frequently is the country's unique political and legal systems, which were shaped as a result of "lessons learned from Nazi Germany and the failure of the Weimar Republic."
"International Humanitarian Relief Organization"
On 12 July 2010, the German Interior Minister decided to ban the "International Humanitarian Relief Organization" based in the German city of Frankfurt, accusing it of supporting organizations and social unions linked to Hamas, and its propensity to not to recognize Israel's right to exist.
The German Ministry of the Interior stated that the organization, through its support for Hamas, violated Article 9.2 of the German Constitution, which calls for the support of understanding between peoples. The ban came into effect in the state of Hesse, Hamburg, and North Rhine-Westphalia.
The German branch of the Islamic Relief Organization announced at the end of November 2020 that it had started a reform process in order to rebut the accusation that it was affiliated with networks of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the German Interior Ministry, according to its response to a request for a briefing from the parliamentary bloc of the Free Democratic Party, clarified that the Federal Authority for the Protection of the Constitution (Germany's domestic intelligence) is not convinced of this yet.
Funding sources inside Germany
The German Foreign Ministry provided aid to Islamic Relief in Germany totaling 2.5 million euros in 2018. The “Deutschland Helft” Association made donations amounting to about 2.5 million euros to the organization in 2019. The German branch of the Islamic Relief Organization received support for its projects amounting to 6.13 million euros from public funds.
In the past, many German media outlets have referred to Hamas as a radical Islamist organization. More recently, however, as Israel-Gaza fighting flares up again, the media have referred to Hamas as an Islamist terror group. A majority of Western governments, including the European Union and the United States, have classified it as a terror organization. Norway and Switzerland are notable exceptions. Both adopt a strictly neutral position and maintain diplomatic ties with the organization that has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007.
The official German policy stance towards Hamas remains constant. The German government expresses its support of Israel’s right to self-defense in confronting Hamas. Berlin has not stopped calling on Hamas to change its position of refusing to implement the conditions of the International Committee and to recognize the international agreements signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization.