Niña palestina celebra el aniversario número 27 de Hamás(Credito: REUTERS).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The 13th Palestinians in Europe Conference on Saturday once again catapulted Hamas’s activities into the spotlight.
The organizers of the event – the London-based Palestinian Return Center and the Palestinian Community in Germany –have ties to Hamas, according to Berlin’s domestic intelligence agency. An estimated 3,000 people pre-registered for the event. Some 200 protesters from the “Berlin against Hamas” campaign demonstrated against the conference, Radio Berlin-Brandenburg reported on Saturday.
Dilek Kolat, a Berlin state senator from the Social Democrats who holds the Integration portfolio, attacked the conference for not distancing itself from the goal of eliminating Israel. “That is intolerable and unacceptable here in Berlin,” she said.
The conference logo shows a map of the Middle East without Israel, and the organizers call for the “right of return” of all Palestinians to Israel.
Ahead of the conference, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post, “We raised this matter with the German ambassador to the US. This is no mere academic exercise. It is about legitimizing those committed in word and deed to the destruction of world’s largest Jewish community, the over 6 million Jewish citizens of the State of Israel. Allowing this conference to go forward in Berlin at this time will further embolden anti-Israel extremists in Germany and further legitimize the demonization of Jews and all other supporters of Israel.”
Yasin Aktay, the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party)’s deputy chairman for foreign affairs, was listed as a guest. It was unclear if he attended. Turkey has provided a base for Hamas operatives to organize terrorist attacks against Israel.
The conference comes after a legal fight over removing Hamas from the European Union’s terrorist list.
In December, the EU’s General Court ruled that Hamas had been classified as a terrorist organization based on inadmissible non-expert media reports, instead of “decisions of competent authorities.”
Hamas remains on the list while an appeal is filed.
Dr. Matthew Levitt and Neri Zilber, Middle East experts from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in an article early this month, “The EU’s ongoing legal dispute has serious ramifications on the international community’s efforts to deal with a Gaza Strip still ruled by Hamas. The group’s various terrorist designations by the EU, the United States, and others have provided important leverage in weakening it.”
Counterterrorism officials in Europe and Israel’s government are closely watching Europe’s posture toward Hamas.
Europe’s cautious approach to Islamic terrorist organizations was on display with its reluctance to outlaw Hezbollah’s entire organization in 2013.
While the EU branded Hezbollah’s so-called military wing a terrorist entity, Europe’s foreign ministers did not outlaw Hezbollah’s political structure on the continent.
The mainstreaming of Hamas among some segments of civil society raised alarm bells. In April, soccer fans sang “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” at a match in the Netherlands. According to The Washington Post, “The shocking chants weren’t an isolated incident, however. Instead, they were the latest in a string of anti-Semitic episodes that threaten to mar European soccer.”
Levitt, the Fromer-Wexler fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute, and Zilber, a visiting scholar at the institute, offered timely and important recommendations for European anti-terrorism officials.
“European donors who deem Hamas a terrorist entity should demand full transparency to ensure that their financial aid is not used to support militant ends. Despite the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, this is the correct legal policy and the correct political choice. Hamas’s continued violence and rejectionism should not be rewarded, let alone legalized, since doing so would only perpetuate the vicious cycle of war, suffering, and reconstruction,” they wrote.
To confront lethal anti-Semitism and the growing jihadist movement, the continent’s leadership will need to be relentless in eliminating Hamas’s activities in Europe.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies