Germany bans Hizbullah television

Interior Ministry spokesman tells 'Post' ban sparked by "propaganda against Israel's right to exist."

manar 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
manar 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
BERLIN - Germany has banned Hizbullah's Al-Manar satellite television station, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter revealed on Tuesday. Dichter was in Berlin to sign a declaration of intent with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble, to foster cooperation on counterterrorism and crime-fighting technology. When asked if Hizbullah's status as a legal organization in Germany - it has 900 active members there - would be on the agenda in his talks with the German Interior Ministry, Dichter told The Jerusalem Post: "I heard they banned Al-Manar." An Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed to the Post that Schäuble had issued an administrative order on November 11 and that the ban would go into effect toward the end of the month. According to the spokesman, the restrictions cover Al-Manar advertisements, fund raising for its Beirut studio and the station's reception in hotels. However, the spokesman said Al-Manar would still be permitted to broadcast to private residences. "Agitational hate propaganda directed against Israel's right to exist" as well as stoking hate against Jews had motivated the order, the spokesman said. The Interior Ministry declined to respond to the Post's query as to whether Schäuble planned to prohibit Hizbullah's membership activity in the country. A pro-Hizbullah orphan charity, Waisenkinderprojekt, has wired funds to family members of suicide-bombers who murdered Israelis, and Hizbullah members enjoy wide latitude in their activities in Germany. Alexander Ritzmann, a Hizbullah expert and senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, has criticized Germany's lenient policies toward the organization. He noted that France pulled the plug on Al-Manar's operations in 2004. "Al-Manar TV radicalizes Muslims in Germany and whips up hatred against Americans, Jews and Israelis. Prohibition of the station is therefore an important step in the fight against extremism. As a next step, the federal government should ensure that Al-Manar is no longer broadcast to Europe via the Arabsat and Nilsat satellites. Further, the anti-Jewish and anti-Western terrorist organization Hizbullah, to which the TV station Al-Manar belongs, should also be prohibited for endangering Germany's internal security," Ritzmann told the Post. Schäuble said, "Israel is our most important and reliable partner in the Middle East. The experts in both our countries have a great deal of experience and knowledge in fighting terrorism and criminality, so that greater cooperation in this regard is in our countries' mutual interest." Schäuble outlined a German-Israeli "working group" that seeks to enhance cooperation in combating terrorism and crime, as well as disarming bombs. During his 24-hour visit to Berlin, Dichter also met with Thomas de Maiziere, chief of Chancellor Angela Merkel's office and Federal Minister for Special Affairs in her cabinet, and Ernst Uhrlau, the head of the German BND intelligence agency. According to Mati Gill, a senior Dichter aide, the Iranian threat was part of the discussions with de Maiziere and Schäuble. "The fight against [a Iranian] nuclear capability needs to be led by superpowers like Germany," said Dichter, adding that the great powers needed to implement harsher sanctions against the Islamic republic. Dichter and de Maiziere discussed Israel's negotiations with Syria. According to Gill, Dichter is "more optimistic about the Syrian track for peace than the Palestinian track." De Maiziere's spokeswoman, Astrid Kny, declined to comment on the meeting. The Israeli side cited an earlier public statement from de Maiziere that "anything other than an oil embargo would likely be ineffective" in forcing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Kny said this was not a quote from de Maiziere. "Germany is in discussion with its partners about the reaction to Iran's insufficient reply" regarding its nuclear program, she said. When asked if Schäuble, who is a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, favored an end to German-Iranian trade, his spokesman declined to comment.