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(photo credit: AP [file])
A German charity for Lebanese orphans is a front organization raising funds for Hizbullah suicide bombers, according to a Brussels-based think tank.
Alexander Ritzmann, a senior fellow at The European Foundation for Democracy and author of a report on "Hizbullah's Fund-raising Organization in Germany," issued last month, said the Orphans Project Lebanon (Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon e.V.), situated in GÃ¶ttingen, Lower Saxony, is "the German branch of a Hizbullah suborganization" which "promotes suicide bombings" and seeks to destroy Israel.
According to Ritzmann's 23-page analysis on the inner workings of Hizbullah in Germany, "financial donations to the Orphans Project Lebanon are tax deductible and are therefore subsidized by the German state."
When asked on Thursday about donors and donations to the Orphans Project, Ritzmann told The Jerusalem Post the tax authority declined to disclose information based on privacy laws. According to Ritzmann, the Orphans Project did not provide a yearly report on its activities.
The federal republic is "legitimizing and promoting financial assistance to Hizbullah," he wrote.
The Orphans Project Lebanon is "affiliated with the Lebanese Al-Shahid Association," which is controlled by Hizbullah's network and trains children to carry out suicide bombing missions, the report said.
Ritzmann's report cited a study conducted by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation which found that in Al-Shahid-run schools and day care centers, "more than 50 percent of the children declared that their sole aim was to become a shahid, or martyr."
In an e-mail to the Post, a spokesman for Interior Minister Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble wrote, "Hizbullah negates Israel's right to exist. Its most important purpose is the fight against Israel, carried out by terrorist means, as the 'illegal occupant of Palestinian soil.' Hizbullah is thus a danger to the State of Israel, which however does not become concrete in the same way in Germany. The Hizbullah supporters who live here behave largely in conformity with the law, in accordance with an order from their Beirut headquarters.
"The association Orphans Project Lebanon is linked with Hizbullah in many ways organizationally and through its staff. Its danger thus essentially corresponds to that of Hizbullah."
When asked if the Interior Ministry plans to legally prohibit Hizbullah's activities in Germany, the spokesman wrote that "the Interior Ministry in general does not make comments about whether it is considering a ban, independent of whether there is a reason for it in the individual case. Our principle is: We don't talk about bans, we impose them."
While SchÃ¤uble said in 2006 that Hizbullah "is not to collect donations" in Germany, the Interior Ministry and state governments have not issued regulations banning the group's fund-raising activities.
Hizbullah is a legal political organization in Germany, where it has 900 active members, according to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - Germany's domestic intelligence agency.
The Orphans Project, and its co-founder Dr. Hicham Hassan, a Beirut-born physician based in Germany, declined to return multiple Post telephone and e-mail queries.
An Israeli Embassy spokesman declined to comment on Ritzmann's report.
Ritzmann told the Post that the German government would be within its rights to outlaw Hizbullah, based on the group's opposition to "the concept of international understanding" as outlined in Federal Administrative legal cases. He cited a precedent, in which Germany banned in 2002 the Al-Aqsa e.V., the fund-raising association of Hamas, because of its promotion of violence in violation of "the concept of international understanding."