Austria and Germany are viewed by Hamas as a safe haven in which the organization secretly concentrates on collecting donations and recruiting people. The EU has classified Hamas as a terrorist organization. The European Court of Justice has confirmed this classification. In Germany, Hamas is to be banned from operating in order to prevent its activities. Such a ban has already been issued against the so-called Islamic State.
“For years it has been observed that organizations associated with Hamas have been organizing conferences and coordinating demonstrations in Europe without attracting much attention. It is time for the security authorities to take these organizations out of cover and stop their activities”, says the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Berlin, which has been dealing with the structures of Hamas for years.
Hamas symbols are banned in Austria. There are no official organizations or clubs that could be banned. However, security authorities confirm that Hamas is active in the Alpine republic. For the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Vienna, it is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and “the Austrian Muslim Brotherhood supported Hamas financially,” according to an official statement from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
Demonstrations in Vienna have so far been “observed and continually assessed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution,” according to the police. The organizer of the pro-Palestinian meetings is a representative of the Palestinian community in Austria. The call for violence against Israel, which led to the banning of last week’s demonstration, has disappeared from invitations to new rallies circulating on social networks. The flyer features a picture of a bulldozer breaking through the Gaza border fence. This action began the Hamas attack on the civilian population in Israel.
The police did not break up a rally on Stephansplatz last week, even though it was banned for security reasons. Rather, the participants were surrounded to prevent them from disrupting a mourning rally by the Israelite Community on Ballhausplatz that was taking place at the same time. More than 300 reports were filed during the pro-Palestine demonstration, most of them for violating the assembly law. The police also carried out hundreds of identity checks.
At sensitive rallies, state security and the police generally pay attention to whether prohibited items are being carried. In the case of pro-Palestine rallies, these include symbols or flags of Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization in the EU, and the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Violations are punished with up to 4,000 euros, and in repeated cases up to 10,000 euros.
In Germany, the German Interior Minister has spoken out in favor of expelling supporters of the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas from Germany. “We will use all legal options to expel Hamas supporters,” said Minister Faeser. She emphasized that the protection of Jews and Jewish institutions in Germany had been “intensified again.”
“If someone who celebrates Hamas on German streets does not have German citizenship, then they should be expelled from Germany,” said the chairman of the German Social Democrats, Lars Klingbeil. “We are currently in the process of reforming citizenship law: naturalization is the strongest commitment to our country. Anyone who does not share our values, anyone who supports anti-Semitism and terror, will be denied a German passport,” he says even more specifically. Anyone who glorifies Hamas’ crimes is committing a criminal offense. German politicians are demanding a clear positioning from the Muslim associations in Germany. “There must be a democratic consensus in our society that we condemn Hamas’ barbaric terror. I also expect the same from all Muslim associations in Germany.”
Planned demonstrations were banned in several German cities due to security concerns, possible anti-Semitic statements or glorification of violence. Despite a ban on gatherings, around 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin-Mitte over the weekend. A police spokesman said it was a “banned replacement meeting” for a previously banned rally. According to their own statements, the police initially unsuccessfully called on the demonstrators to leave the square with announcements in German and Arabic. The “ringleaders” were then taken out of the crowd. The demonstrators eventually left the meeting place in smaller groups.
Many politicians are now asking themselves how they can take legal action against these gatherings. This is not just about celebrating acts of terrorism and spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, but also about protecting Jews. In Austria and Germany there are now warnings to the Jewish population not to wear Jewish symbols in public. The danger of physical violence and insults in public places is too great for the Jews.
The German Section 140 of the Criminal Code prohibits the “condonation” of crimes if it is done “in a way that is likely to disturb public peace.” Even if Hamas’ attack on Israel does not constitute a war of aggression, it is still an act of terrorism. And using the example of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, courts have decided: These are so important that it is enough for a ban on “endorsement” in this country too.
However, the deportation of supporters of terrorist acts by Hamas in Germany is more difficult. Corresponding demands are now being made by politicians in Berlin, for example the regulations on immigration law could be changed. Any solidarity in this country with terrorist organizations such as Hamas or the Lebanese Hezbollah must receive a tough and consistent response. At least for those who do not have a German passport, Section 54 of the Residence Act could be an effective remedy: If a foreigner “endorses or promotes crimes against peace, against humanity, a war crime or terrorist acts of comparable weight,” then he can be relieved to be expelled. Of course, deportation is only conceivable if a country accepts the person in question. This is extremely difficult in the case of the Palestinian territories and partly Lebanon. The chances of success for German immigration authorities are very low.
So what about a general ban on pro-Hamas gatherings? The assembly laws of the 16 federal states in Germany provide a handle for this. For example, in Berlin, paragraph 14 states: “A meeting may in particular be prohibited, restricted or dissolved after its beginning” if it incites hatred or violence against a “national group”. The German Constitutional Court demands great respect for freedom of expression in such situations. The court has often reiterated that the blanket reference to the fact that crimes regularly occur at gatherings of a certain political spectrum is not enough. In Berlin in particular, there are now many years of experience with pro-Palestinian protests. For years, demonstrations took place there around May 15th, known as “Al-Quds Day” and commemorating the so-called Nakba, i.e. the expulsion of large numbers of Palestinians from the former British mandate of Palestine in 1948. Due to a large number of anti-Semitic, criminal statements at these demos, the state of Berlin finally imposed a ban for the first time in 2022 – and won the legal dispute in all instances.
The associations that spread anti-Israel propaganda in their communities could theoretically also be legally banned. After the Hamas celebration in Neukölln, Berlin’s anti-Semitism commissioner called for a ban on associations that spread hatred of Jews. “Without organizational structures, this would be unthinkable on this scale; bans on associations and activities are urgently needed.” The German Ministry of the Interior would be responsible here. According to Article 9 Paragraph 2 of the German Constitution, associations can be banned if their purposes or activities run counter to criminal law or are directed against the constitutional order or the idea of international understanding. The focus is now particularly on the Samidoun network. The association, which advocates for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, was founded in the USA in 2011 and also came to Germany in 2012. In Berlin in particular, the approximately 100 supporters are always loud, as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution writes: “There were regular anti-Semitic statements and demands, for example for the dismantling of the state of Israel.”
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