BERLIN – Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s diplomatic push last week in Brussels to convince the EU to designate the Lebanese-based Hezbollah group as a terror entity was met with robust resistance.
Liberman sought to inject new life into the drive to outlaw Hezbollah because of the murders of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver on July 18. Israeli and US intelligence agencies believe Hezbollah carried out the suicide bombing at Bulgaria's Burgas airport.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country heads the 26-member EU presidency, said there is “no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on the terrorist list of the organization,” and claimed there is “no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism.”
Counter-terrorism blogs and experts on both sides of the Atlantic were immediately awash with reactions that quickly mounted overwhelming evidence to refute Kozakou-Marcoullis’s contentions.
Jacob Campbell, a research fellow at the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy in the United Kingdom, and author of a report in late June on the EU “Helping Hezbollah,” told The Jerusalem Post on Friday, “Within just days of the Burgas bombing – almost undoubtedly perpetrated by Hezbollah – the Presidency of the EU Council explicitly ruled out the possibility of listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, insisting that there is no ‘tangible evidence’ to link Hezbollah to terrorism. This ludicrous statement was made despite an earlier resolution adopted by the European Parliament, which cites ‘clear evidence’ of terrorist acts committed by Hezbollah. On this issue, as in so many others, Brussels appears to have its head buried firmly in the sand.”
The United States classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Writing on his World Affairs blog, the US Mideast expert Michael J. Totten wrote that Hezbollah’s “first act of terrorism was the destruction of the US Embassy in Beirut in 1983. I could sit here all day and list all the incidents between then and now, but I won’t. European officials know perfectly well what Hezbollah has done. Their refusal to blacklist it has nothing to do with their ignorance or with Hezbollah’s innocence.”
In an exhaustive account on the popular Long War Journal news website, Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, documented that “Hezbollah has provided support and training to other terror groups to carry out suicide operations, including Hamas and al-Qaida.”
Though the UK has outlawed the military wing of Hezbollah, the Iran-sponsored group continues to have wide political and organizational latitude across Europe to advance its ideology and increase its operational potency. According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz), Hezbollah has roughly 900 active members in the Federal Republic. Germany, like France, has showed no appetite for a ban of Hezbollah. France has shied away from imposing a ban on the group so as to preserve its diplomatic influence in Lebanon.
Major security blind spots toward EU and Israeli security filled the German media after the Bulgaria attack. The head of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, Ruprecht Polenz told a German radio program that there is no proof that Iran or its proxy Hezbollah was behind the attack in Bulgaria. Polenz, a controversial deputy from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, is engulfed in an anti-Israel scandal because of his support for a German “peace activist” who has denigrated Israel.
There has, however, been one national-based legislative resolution to urge the EU to pull the plug on oxygen for Hezbollah’s main supporter, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Dutch parliament in late 2009, in an initiative first reported in the Post, urged, in a broad-based crossparty resolution, that the EU ban the Revolutionary Guard Corps because, “this organization has played a leading role during the bloody suppression of the recent popular protests [against the fixed reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] and that it is increasingly active in facilitating international terrorism, among which support to Hamas, Hezbollah and anti-Western militias in Iraq.”
The EU simply ignored the Dutch appeal. Last summer, lawmakers in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies unanimously passed a resolution calling for the international community to ratchet up its pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, to “end his government’s repression of democracy activists, as well as Iran’s and Hezbollah’s influence in Syria.”
The EU, once again, took no action against Hezbollah.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor, told the Post that “in Lebanon, millions of euros from the EU budget are provided under the banner of ‘education reform,’ while the education minister has mandated the teaching of ‘Resistance,’ meaning Hezbollah terrorism, backed by Iran, as demonstrated tragically in Bulgaria.
Without full transparency in decision-making and independent evaluation, the history of EC failure in dealing with Middle Eastern realities is perpetuated.”
The Post first reported on Germany’s Interior Ministry issuing an administrative order in 2008 that merely restricted the Hezbollah television station Al-Manar from buying advertisements, fund-raising for its Beirut studio and the reception of its programs in German hotels. According to the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, “Al- Manar TV was removed from all European satellites in 2004 and 2005 when it was found to violate European and national audiovisual directives.”
The foundation has long argued that Al-Manar ought to be banned because its programs are “aimed at spreading violent ideologies, jihadism, indoctrinating young children with hate, inciting terrorism and glorifying suicide bombers, spreading viciously anti-Semitic propaganda, and calling for attacks against Western targets. Al-Manar TV reaches between 10-15 million viewers daily and is used by Hezbollah to recruit terrorists and reportedly is used communicate with sleeper cells around the globe.”
Israel has, without a doubt, a dog in the fight to ban Hezbollah in Europe, because the group seeks to obliterate the Jewish state and to murder its civilians and Jews abroad. Hezbollah killings of French soldiers in Beirut and the Bulgarian bus driver would suggest that the EU also has a major dog in the fight, but it is still unwilling to confront Hezbollah.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a reporter for The Jerusalem Post.