“These days we are all Israelis” – it was a strong statement made by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during her visit to Israel last Friday. She reiterated Germany’s full and unconditional support for Israel, for the country’s right and duty to protect its citizens.
Her visit came two days after Germany imposed a ban on Hamas’ activities and a ban on the Samidoun network, which supports terrorism, and one day after the Bundestag’s decision to suspend all development aid for Gaza – excluding humanitarian aid. In one ZDF interview that same evening, the minister reiterated that Germany does not support (Palestinian) terror and that the government will now reconsider its aid to the Palestinian Authority.
It’s a shame that it had to come to this point before Germany took such steps. The fact is that German development aid and humanitarian aid have been misdirected by Palestinian terrorist groups for decades – and this information was very much available to German officials. How sure can we be now that these declarations of intent actually have meaning?
1. Humanitarian aid
Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions as Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields for terrorist infrastructure and prevent them from reaching safety. Help for local civilians is essential. But how can Germany and other countries ensure that their humanitarian support reaches those who need it – and does not end up in the hands of Hamas?
It has been shown in the past that Hamas misappropriated concrete and other building materials designated as essential elements of humanitarian aid to build tunnels and thousands of deadly rockets. And this week reported “Times of Israel”that Hamas stole 24,000 liters of gasoline and pipes from a UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) facility.
Just about a year ago, in June 2022, condemned An Israeli court charged a Gaza-based executive with the major Christian aid organization World Vision with misappropriating $50 million in funds and materials for terrorist purposes. Among other things, he is said to have supplied Hamas with materials for the expansion of its outposts “Eskalan” and “Filastin” – the latter is located near the Erez border crossing, which was stormed by terrorists on Saturday. He was also accused of helping Hamas gather intelligence, participating in Hamas training, and manipulating tender processes to divert millions of dollars in aid to it.
And what was the EU’s only reaction on it? Since most of the proceedings were not public for security reasons, people complained that the trial was not fair – without even giving the allegations a thought. No investigation, no assessment – but where does this security come from?
2. Development cooperation
The October 7 massacre carried out by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations did not take place in a vacuum, but is directly linked to the legitimization of Jew-hatred by the Palestinian Authority, the entire education system and civil society, which is leading to the destruction of the Jewish state to dehumanize Jewish people, foment violence and glorify terror. All of this with generous support from the European Union, Germany and the governments of other European countries through development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
The Foreign Office (AA) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) were informed of this. On March 14th of this year, for example, I and Volker Beck took part in a meeting with Ulrich Ernst, head of the Near and Middle East department at the Federal Foreign Office, and a colleague from the BMZ. During the meeting explained I asked why a network of Palestinian NGOs, which Israel classified as a terrorist arm of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), could not be a suitable partner for Germany to promote peace, reconciliation, coexistence or sustainable development in the region. This assessment was based on evidence that NGOs were centrally involved in financing the PFLP’s activities.
But as in the World Vision case, the Israeli case was dismissed as unconvincing by the German side: evidence that senior staff at these NGOs were arrested for their involvement in a terrorist attack that killed a 17-year-old, and publicly available information – seen on social media – that showed clear links to the PFLP were dismissed as unconvincing. Ernst even claimed that the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), one of the NGOs in question, had fired all employees involved in the terrorist attack, so there was now no need for further investigation into the matter.
This meeting took place just weeks before the demonstration at which the PFLP-affiliated group Samidoun showed its ugly face with cries of “Death to the Jews, Death to Israel”.
Last Saturday, when the PFLP stood shoulder to shoulder with Hamas in carrying out the massacre in southern Israel and publicly celebrated it on social media, these calls became reality.
Ms. Baerbock, you have to take this seriously!
In view of the federal government’s planned review of the development portfolio, the question for Ms. Baerbock is the following: Will all of this finally be taken seriously? The Bundestag will hopefully insist on commissioning an independent body to carry out the review and not leave it to the ministry itself.
The review should not be seen as a call for Germany to abandon the Palestinian people or to cut aid entirely. Rather, Germany has an opportunity here to rethink the paradigm surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that real progress can be made in the interests of both peoples.
It is certainly a challenge to change the way the AA works. Ms. Baerbock is now faced with a choice: look the other way or use the broad political support behind the review to finally put words into action and really make a difference for Israelis and Palestinians.