|Photo by: REUTERS/Sharif Karim|
Will EU heed Washington’s calls to ban Hezbollah?
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Analysis: Hezbollah "not just Israeli issue" but also affects Americans, Syrians, Europeans, says US expert.
WASHINGTON – US senators urged the European Union last week, in a resolution
sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), to take sanctions action
against Hezbollah in Europe.
The contentious difference of opinion
between the Europeans and the Americans on a ban of Hezbollah has not evaporated
from the media and political radar screens in the United States. Sensing shifts
in Europe’s openness to outlaw the Lebanese Shi’ite organization, over 50
senators joined Lieberman to push European governments to criminalize
The US effort to persuade the EU to ban Hezbollah is taking
the shape of a similar spat in 2003, when Washington exerted pressure on a
reluctant Europe to outlaw Hamas. Responding to a Hamas suicide bomb attack in
Jerusalem that year, which murdered 22 people, then-British foreign secretary
Jack Straw said “given the outrage perpetrated by Hamas and which killed so many
innocent people and for which there was no conceivable justification, we’ve
taken a political decision to freeze the assets of Hamas and other
France and Germany initially resisted the EU ban of Hamas in
2003. The two countries both – following the pattern of 2003 – show no appetite
for listing Hezbollah as a terrorist entity.
Speaking with The Jerusalem
Post in Washington, Mark Dubowitz, executive-director of the Foundation for
Defense of Democracies, said “European leaders do not fully grasp the extent to
which American policy makers, counter-terrorism officials, military personnel and
the general public see Hezbollah as a severe danger to our national
“This is not only an Israeli or Jewish issue. Hezbollah
is seen here in America as a murderous terrorist organization and as a partner
of an Iranian regime which has waged war against the West and its own people,”
“Americans have not forgotten the American and European blood that
Hezbollah and Iran have shed and the continued threat that they both still
represent to our safety.”
Dubowitz, a leading expert on transatlantic
counter-terrorism policies targeting Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, added, “If
Europe is unwilling to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, after
the Obama administration and Democrats and Republicans in Congress have implored
their European counterparts to recognize the nature and gravity of the Hezbollah
global threat, it raises reasonable concerns that a transatlantic partnership
that defeated previous threats to Western democracies in the 20th century may
not be capable of defeating the deadly ones of the 21st century.”
the exceptions of a small number of continental European politicians, there has
been no groundswell of members of parliament across Europe – in contrast with
the US – looking to outlaw Hezbollah within the borders of the EU.
notable exceptions are Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein and German MP Philipp
Missfelder, the spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party in the Bundestag,
who have both advocated that the EU include Hezbollah into its terror
Josh Block, a former Clinton administration official and CEO of The
Israel Project, a US pro-Israel organization based in Washington, told the Post
“Iran’s terrorist army Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any terrorist
group except al-Qaida, and according to intelligence officials, in the past year
has been more active in plotting and conducting terrorist attacks outside of the
Middle East than in the last 20 years, including in Europe, Azerbaijan, Cyprus,
Thailand, and North America.
“When the White House counterterrorism chief
says that the EU’s ‘failure to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization
makes it more difficult to defend our countries and protect our citizens,’ one
wonders if the European Union understands or cares,” he said.
failure to define the global terrorist organization for what it is calls into
question the EU’s commitment to fighting terrorism and supporting peace in the
Middle East, their interest in the welfare of innocent Syrian victims of
Hezbollah, Iran and [Bashar] Assad’s sadistic partnership, and general ability
of the EU to function in a serious manner.”
European diplomats from Spain
and France have told the Post that blacklisting Hezbollah is contingent on the
outcome of the Bulgarian investigation into a July bombing in Burgas which
killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. American and Israeli
intelligence officials believe a joint Hezbollah-Iran operation executed the
suicide bombing. Europe has held the line on its ban of Hamas in 2003.
Hezbollah’s terrorism is equally deadly and there are no shortage of compelling
reasons to evict Hezbollah from European soil.
Benjamin Weinthal is a
European affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and a fellow with the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies.