German Culture Minister Monika Grütters is planning to reform the Limbach Commission, established in 2003 to mediate ownership disputes of Nazi-looted art. Ronald Lauder, the founder of the Commission for Art Recovery and president of the World Jewish Congress, has stated that the commission has been “cold and distant” in its treatment of Jews trying to claim their art that was looted by the Nazis.
The cool approach to Jewish rights of ownership of Nazi-looted property could possibly be attributed to the utter absence of Jews from the Limbach Commission.
The non-binding Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, endorsed by 44 countries in 1998, recommend that governments establish independent commissions with “a balanced membership” to “assist in addressing ownership issues.” But according to The Art Newspaper, Germany’s interpretation of the phrase “balanced membership” has not included appointing a single Jewish panel member.
Grütters told the New York Times last March that the move was intentional, because, as everyone knows, a Jewish member “would be the only voice who would be prejudiced.” Her comment generated a torrent of accusations of anti-Semitism, and the culture minister promised Lauder to appoint a Jewish member. Eventually.
“Thirteen years after it was established it is time to think about the future development of the commission in the interest of improved implementation of the Washington Principles,” Minsiter Grütters said in a recent statement, and culture bureaucrats from the 16 German states and municipal associations are in the process of establishing a committee to recommend reforms, meaning to find a Jewish person they could trust with the process of examining the Nazi-looted art. According to a spokesman for Grütters, proposals should be coming in this year.
To illustrate just how (intentionally) frustrating the recovery process has been, according to the Center for Art Law in January a task force appointed by Grütters released the results of their two-year, $2 million investigation, which found the rightful owners of five of the 1,500 works in the Gurlitt collection. Grütters has admitted her own disappointment, but seems to be taking the slow and steady approach, to avoid “a second seizure” of the art — meaning that some lying Jewish family be improperly awarded one of the stolen masterpieces. Meanwhile, the entire collection continues to be exhibited in Germany this year.
In late February, also according to the Center for Art Law, Germany announced that it will pay for at least another year of research and hire additional staff to establish the provenance of works in the Gurlitt collection. Minister Grütters reaffirmed Germany’s pledge to return any looted art to its rightful owners or their descendants, and awarded the (ostensibly meticulous) research a budget of $6.5 million.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama claimed that Israel’s “military and security community” has realized he was right all along and now supports his nuclear deal with Iran. “The country that was most opposed to the deal,” he told a press conference, “acknowledges this has been a game-changer.”
That same military and security community, currently under new management, reacted swiftly and bitterly, saying that deals have value only when they are based on existing reality, and are entirely without value if the facts on the ground are the opposite of those assumed by the deal.
It then added a harsh reminder, that the 1938 Munich accord, whose “basic assumption, that Nazi Germany could be a partner to any kind of agreement, was wrong,” failed to prevent WW2 and the Holocaust, because world leaders at the time ignored the explicit threats made by Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership.
The Israeli response, despite the mention of the Holocaust, was considered by Israeli analysts to be showing restraint. For one thing, it was not delivered personally by Prime Minister Netanyahu, nor by the actual head of the “military and security community,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. The boorish voice in this incident belonged to Obama. As a NY Post editorial put it, “What could President Obama have been thinking?”
Or, as the unsigned Liberman response implied, how can anyone in their right mind trust “the agreement with Iran, which itself explicitly and publicly announces that its goal is to destroy the state of Israel.”
It continued: “A US State Department document published this year states that Iran is the chief state sponsor of terror world-wide. Therefore, the Israeli security establishment, the nation of Israel, and many other nations around the world, understand that agreements like those signed between the world super powers and Iran aren’t helpful. They only damage the uncompromising struggle against nations which support terror.”
Netanyahu’s office issued a much softer response, following Liberman’s office’s statement, saying that despite the difference of opinions over the Iran deal, “Prime Minister Netanyahu still believes that Israel has no greater ally than the United States. As Netanyahu said in his UN speech last year, it’s important that those who were for the agreement and those who were against it cooperate to fulfill three goals; to make sure that Iran doesn’t violate the agreement, to deal with Iran’s regional aggression, and to dismantle Iran’s global terror network. The Prime Ministers expects these goals to become part of shared policies, and that the alliance between the United States and Israel only grow stronger not only with President Obama, but also with his successor.”
On Wednesday, Christian Today reported that Mohammad El Halabi, an employee of World Vision (WV), the world’s largest evangelical Christian charity, had been detained on June 15 at the Erez crossing “on his way home from routine meetings” and was being held “without access to legal counsel or family visits,” which is normal fare in Israel with regards to security prisoners.
Last Friday, when El Halabi’s detention had been extended until August Tuesday, Aug. 2, WV’s eastern Jerusalem office released a statement saying, “World Vision stands by Mohammad who is a widely respected and well-regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade. He has displayed compassionate leadership on behalf of the children and communities of Gaza through difficult and challenging times, and has always worked diligently and professionally in fulfilling his duties.”
It should be interesting to see the charity’s response to the charges submitted against El Halabi by the Southern District Prosecution in Beer Sheva District Court Thursday, describing him as Hamas activist who has been using his high position in the charity organization to systematically divert millions of dollars to the military arm of Hamas, financing, among other things, the digging of terror tunnels. The monies, according to Thursday’s indictment, was taken out of funds and resources that had been dedicated to humanitarian assistance to Gaza Strip residents. The indictment includes 12 counts of security violations of passing information to the enemy, membership in a terror organization, funding terrorism, participation in an unlawful association, and contact with foreign agents.
The facts included in the indictment describe El Halabi as having a master’s degree in engineering. A member of Hamas since 1995, in 2004 he joined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas. In 2005 he was hired by WV to carry out administrative assignments at the charity’s Gaza branch. His job provided him with an entry permit into Israel. El Halabi exploited his visits to Israel to locate and mark [via GPS] sites near the Erez Crossing that potentially could be used as egress points for Hamas attack tunnels.
Carrying out his assignments, according to the prosecution, El Halabi usurped millions of dollars in donations that arrived from foreign countries such as the US, Australia, Germany and the UK, and were slated for humanitarian needs, agricultural, education, and psychological support.
According to El Halabi, the humanitarian aid donated for the residents of the Gaza Strip was in actual fact given almost exclusively to Hamas terrorists and their families. Non-Hamas members almost never received any benefit from the aid, despite their relative level of need. Needless to say, this is in contradiction to the accepted practice of the humanitarian aid organizations. Every month, El Halabi distributed thousands of packages of food, basic commodities and medical supplies to Hamas terrorists and their families, commodities that World Vision had intended to go to the needy.
Over his many years working for WV, El Halabi transferred to Hamas’s possession thousands of tons of iron rods, digging equipment and plastic hoses, originally intended for agricultural use but in reality utilized by the Hamas tunnel builders and for building military bases such as the “Palestine” military base which was built in 2015 entirely from British aid money. Some of the money went to pay the salaries of Hamas terrorists and, in some cases, senior Hamas terrorists took large sums of money for their own personal use. During the war of 2014, Hamas terrorists received WV food packages to sustain them above and below ground, including in terror tunnels.
El Halabi also provided plastic sheets bearing the WV emblem to cover the openings of tunnels, making them look like agricultural hothouses.
According to the indictment, around the year 2012, El Halabi was engaged by Hamas to initiate a greenhouse project, to use greenhouses to hide the sites where terror tunnels were being dug. In addition, a project for the rehabilitation of (fictitious) fishermen was actually used to provide motor boats and diving suits for Hamas’s military marine unit.
The Shabak investigation revealed that the main method El Halabi used to divert money to Hamas was to put out fictitious tenders for WV-sponsored projects in the Gaza Strip. The “winning” company was simply informed that 60% of the project’s funds were to be designated for Hamas.
El Halabi told his interrogators that a regular method of acquiring equipment for Hamas was to disguise Hamas warehouses as WV warehouses. Trucks bringing supplies to the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Israel and Gaza would then unload their goods at Hamas warehouses instead of legitimate WV warehouses. Hamas operatives would pick up the supplies in the dead of night.
According to Shabak, the El Halabi investigation revealed much information concerning additional figures in the Gaza Strip who exploited their work for humanitarian aid organizations and UN institutions, on behalf of Hamas. El Halabi’s statements portray a troubling picture in which UN institutions in Gaza are in fact controlled by Hamas.
How the Money Was Transferred to Hamas
Some of the money raised to support injured children in Gaza was diverted to the families of Hamas terrorists, by fraudulently listing their children as wounded.
Money designated for psychological support, education and health in Gaza ($2 million/year) was used to pay the families of Hamas terrorists.
Part of the WV donations was transferred in cash and recorded fraudulently as aid to needy children.
Monies were paid out as salaries to Hamas terrorists and activists, who were registered as employees of the aid organization when in fact they never worked for WV.
Costs for legitimate infrastructure projects were inflated, with the difference going to Hamas.
Straw companies — two farmers’ associations and a fake charity for the benefit of the injured — were established with false registers to launder money.
Unemployment payments were diverted to Hamas terrorists. El Halabi arranged for one-third of the allowances WV transfers to Gaza for the unemployed to go to members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The terrorists received a larger allowance ($392 instead of $300).
Using lists of fictitious beneficiaries, $2 million a year were designated as aid for farmers and diverted to Hamas activists. El Halabi reported a larger sum than what was actually transferred to the farmers to World Vision. The difference was diverted to Hamas.
Project costs were inflated. For example, WV invested in the construction of 500 greenhouses and the preparation of land (495 acres) for agriculture. El Halabi reported to the charity that the cost was $1,000 per quarter acre, while the real cost was $700. The difference – $300 per quarter acre – was transferred to Hamas.
In their 2014 report titled “Filling in the Blanks — Documenting Missing Dimensions in UN and NGO Investigations of the Gaza Conflict,” NGO Monitor and UN Watch have cautioned: “The willingness of World Vision workers to openly discuss these issues is exceptional; however, the answers leave little doubt as to World Vision’s willingness to negotiate and coordinate with armed groups. This raises questions as to whether the group would prevent components of its aid from being misappropriated by terrorist organizations, if it felt that taking a stand would jeopardize the organization’s ability to continue its operations in a given area.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday has agreed publicly that Germany is “at war” with Islamist terrorists, but insisted that they would nevertheless not erode German values or cause her to change her refugee policy.
“A rejection of the humanitarian stance we took could have led to even worse consequences,” Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin, adding that the terrorists “wanted to undermine our sense of community, our openness and our willingness to help people in need. We firmly reject this.”
She defended her open door policy for refugees, said she feels no guilt for the violent attacks those refugees have carried out in Germany, and insisted she had been right to permit those hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees to enter a year ago.
Still, Merkel did call a spade a spade, berating Islamist extremists for biting the German hands that feed them. “Taboos of civilization are being broken,” Merkel said. “These acts happened in places where any of us could have been.”
She was referring to a string of attacks Germans have endured in the space of one week: an axe attack on a train, a mass shooting in Munich that left nine dead, a machete attack that killed a pregnant woman, and a suicide bomb in Ansbach. Three of the attacks were carried out by refugees.
“The fact that [the] men who came to us as refugees are responsible mocked the country that took them in, mocks the volunteers who have taken so much care of refugees. And it mocks the many other refugees who truly seek protection from war and violence with us, who want to live peacefully,” Merkel said.
“I didn’t say eleven months ago that it would be easy,” she said. “I am still convinced today that ‘We can do it’. It is our historic duty and historic task in these times of globalization. We have already achieved so much in the last 11 months.”
Merkel is counting on the EU migrant deal with Turkey, which she negotiated, and the closure of the Balkan Route, will slow down the rush of asylum seekers into Germany. “An influx like last year’s will not happen again, but I cannot say that we will not take in any more refugees,” she said.
Merkel introduced a nine-point plan to defeat domestic terror, including improved monitoring of suspects and improved intelligence co-operation with the US and the Europeans. She is also determined to speed up deportations of rejected asylum seekers. The Ansbach suicide bomber had been rejected but was able to stay in Germany.
“I believe we are in a fight, or for that matter at war with ISIS,” Merkel said. “We are not in any way in a fight or war with Islam.”
The next German federal elections will take place in late summer or early fall, 2017, unless the Merkel government loses a no confidence motion.
The Islamic State terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the terror attack Sunday in the southern German city of Ansbach, calling the suicide bomber a “soldier of ISIS.”
A Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up outside a music festival on Sunday after he failed to gain entry to the event.
The quick action by guards who blocked the entry of the attacker contained the damage; 15 people were wounded but the bomber was the only casualty.
Initially there was uncertainty about the motives behind the explosion, with police telling media that the Syrian refugee “may have been suicidal” due to his personal circumstances. Security personnel said he had acted on his own.
But as the investigation clarified the amount of explosive material that detonated in the blast, combined with the fact that the operative made an effort to enter a festival filled with thousands of participants, the intent of the Syrian “refugee” became obvious.
In addition, The attacker who left a bomb outside a bar in Ansbach, Germany, had enough materials to make another explosive device, according to police. The man also pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video found on his phone.
The attacker left a bomb outside a bar in Ansbach and had enough materials to make another explosive device, according to police. The man also pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video found on his phone, according to a statement by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann, quoted by AP.
“A provisional translation by an interpreter shows that he expressly announces, in the name of Allah, and testifying his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a famous Islamist leader, an act of revenge against the Germans because they’re getting in the way of Islam,” Hermann said at a news conference. “I think that after this video there’s no doubt that the attack was a terrorist attack with an Islamist background,” he added.
The Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization meanwhile claimed responsibility for being the inspiration behind the actions of the “lone wolf” attacker. But the group said the suicide bomber had acted in response to its calls to target nations who participate in the coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
A Syrian man, 27, who had been refused asylum in Germany, killed himself on Sunday with a bomb he set off near a music festival in Ansbach, Bavaria, in southern Germany. This is the fourth violent attack by Muslims in southern Germany in less than a week. According to police, 12 people were injured in the explosion, three seriously. According to state officials, the man had been denied entry to the music festival just before the explosion.
The Syrian man was carrying a backpack filled with explosives and metal parts, in what officials are saying could have been an ISIS-inspired attack. Officials also said the man had arrived in Germany two years ago and this was his third suicide attempt.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told reporters early Monday that it was not yet certain whether the man had planned to “take others with him into death.”
Police evacuated more than 2,000 people from the festival after the explosion, and cordoned off a large area around the explosion site.
According to Reuters, citing a US intelligence official (The US maintains an Army base in Ansbach), investigators are focusing on the bomber’s history before he left Syria, the reasons he was denied asylum, and why he blew himself up — was it personal, political, religious, or all three.
Last week an Afghan refugee used an axe and a knife to injured a family of four on a train in southern Germany before being shot dead by police. On Friday, nine people were killed and more than 20 injured by an Iranian in Munich, also in southern Germany. Earlier on Sunday, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a pregnant woman and wounding two people with a machete in the southwestern city of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart.
At least nine people died Friday night, among them a 15-year-old girl, in a terror attack at the Olympia Shopping Mall, built on the site of the Olympic village where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Arab terrorists in 1972.
The Arab Black September terrorist group took the Israeli athletes hostage and murdered them during the 1972 Olympic Games held at the Olympic Stadium next door to the mall where three shooters with “long-barreled rifles” opened fire at shoppers and employees.
It is not known how many more people were injured at the mall, located in the north-western Moosach district of Munich, Germany.
Officials locked down and declared a state of emergency in the city as security personnel broadened their manhunt for the terrorists believed to be on the run after their attack. It came just two days after a government minister had warned of more “lone wolf” attacks after a terror attack on a train earlier in the week.
The crowded shopping center was jammed with customers throughout the 135 stores and eateries on both floors when the shooters entered at around 6 pm.
Many customers and employees were still in the mall after the terrorists fled on foot, possibly entering a nearby metro train. The area around the mall was sealed off by police but the attackers managed to escape.
The German government requested additional security forces from neighboring Austria as its government lowered its flag to half mast to honor the memories of the victims. Massive numbers of heavily armed special operations forces, Munich police and other security officers converged on the city. Taxi drivers were warned not to pick up passengers.
Public transportation was shut down, including train, tram and bus lines in the city. The streets of Munich were virtually clear. Residents were asked to stay off the roadways and drivers have been asked to leave the highways around the city as well, Fox News reported.
At least some parts of the country’s border were sealed off in an attempt to prevent the terrorists from escaping Germany.
Police confirmed a report that one of the shooters shot and killed himself about a mile away from the mall. A backpack was located next to the deceased, however, prompting officials to send a robot to check the body and the bag in order to ensure there were no explosives.
An alert went out to doctors and nurses in Munich to report to their hospitals for a mass casualty attack. “Law enforcement is overwhelmed,” one security source told a news analyst at Fox News.
No terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks, although Da’esh (ISIS) supporters posted joyous tweets of celebration about the rampage. However, Fox News analyst Sebastian Gorka said a colleague in Germany who analyzed audio from the scene said one of the terrorists, who spoke in German, used an East German accent.
It’s not known whether there were Israelis or other Jews on the scene at the time of the attack, approximately an hour and a half before the start of the Jewish Sabbath.
The U.S. Consulate instructed American citizens to “shelter in place” and avoid the area.
German police requested that media refrain from posting any live coverage of events in order to prevent the attackers from receiving information about law enforcement counter terror movements.
This is the second terror attack in Germany in a week; an Afghan teenager wielded an ax on a train earlier in the week in an attempt to kill passengers in the country. Four people were physically injured and more than a dozen others suffered traumatic shock in that attack.
Friday was also the five-year anniversary of the massacre in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right extremist. Anger against political refugees from the Middle East and Africa has been rising in the far-right sector.
On the Twitter social media networking site, some users were tweeting rumors that at least one of the attackers was wearing “black boots” and was screaming about “foreigners” and “refugees.” Officials said they are treating the event as a ‘terrorist attack’ but emphasized they had not yet identified the attackers.