BERLIN – Germany has banned the Frankfurt-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) because it “fights against Israel’s right to exist.”

“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,” Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Monday.

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According to the Interior Ministry, the German-based IHH, which ostensibly split from the Turkish IHH, funneled money to Hamas.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy told The Jerusalem Post that “With great satisfaction we have noted the German government’s decision to outlaw IHH, the terror organization that was behind the Gaza flotilla.”

Maiziere, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said that IHH “knowingly and deliberately supports organizations that either are under Hamas control or support Hamas themselves...

“The cynical behavior of the IHH is even expressed in its name, International Humanitarian Aid Organization. It exploits the helpfulness of well-meaning donors in order ultimately to support a terrorist organization with money donated for supposedly good causes.”

The Interior Ministry had banned three pro-Hamas organizations since 2002, including al-Aqsa e.V. and YATIM-Kinderhilfe e.V., because of their financial support for the terrorist group.

A spokesman for the ministry told the Post that “funds were provided to Hamas” and “that is reason enough” to ban the IHH. He declined to comment on the amount of money transferred to Hamas.

On its Web site, the German IHH denies any connection with the Turkish-based IHH. However, German media reports and an NGO have suggested cooperation between the two organizations.

The Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, which seeks to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to counter efforts to delegitimize Israel, issued a statement in early June saying that “The dubious intrigues by the German branch of IHH, headquartered in Frankfurt, should also be the subject of a parliamentary investigative committee.”

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and an authority on Hamas and its international terror network, told the Post on Monday that “It is certainly possible that the German IHH is not connected to the extremist activities of its Turkish counterparts.

“For example, the US government in 2006 sanctioned the Philippine and Indonesian branch offices of International Islamic Relief Organization for its ties to al-Qaida, without citing other branches.

“But in this case, questions linger about whether IHH branches share resources with other branches around the world. IHH, after all, is a signatory to the Union of Good, which undeniably funds Hamas. In other words, the German IHH still has a lot of explaining to do,” Schanzer said.

It is unclear whether the Interior Ministry timed its announcement to ban IHH with a view toward blunting criticism of the German parliament’s resolution slamming Israel for seizing the IHH-financed Mavi Marmara, one of the ships that tried to break the Gaza blockade.

Dr. Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, welcomed the German action on the German IHH.

“Over a month ago we called for front-groups like the IHH to be proscribed and banned from raising funds in Europe. We encourage the European Union to give this the highest priority,” Kantor said. “Now that Germany has shown the way, we hope that the European Union and other European governments will officially ban the IHH.

“It is vital that the European Union and European governments act quickly to ban organizations which pose as charities or humanitarian agencies from raising funds that assist terrorism, murder and militant activity,” Kantor said.

“Today, there is a global network of terror that works under our noses in Europe, and they try and stay one step ahead of the authorities. It is unfortunate that it took the tragic flotilla incident to wake us up to this reality. We call on European officials to identify and outlaw these front organizations before they act, and then we can save a lot of pain and heartache.”

According to Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the domestic intelligence agency), there are roughly 300 active members of Hamas in Germany.

Heinz Fromm, the president of the intelligence agency, said he sees anti- Semitism in both right-wingers and Muslim extremists in Germany.

Fromm was quoted in Der Spiegel on Sunday as saying the two groups have “a similar picture of the enemy: Israel and the Jews overall.”

He said that while neo-Nazis adhere to a racist anti-Semitism, Muslim extremists “are oriented toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and that both groups have the idea “that Israel and the Jews have undue power that needs to be fought.”

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