Could it be that the European Union is finally on its way to recognizing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization? That appeared to be the message coming from an Austrian diplomat who spoke with The Jerusalem Post’s European correspondent Benjamin Weinthal over the weekend.

Amazingly, the Europeans have yet to do so. All we can say is, “Better late than never.”

Already in 1995, well before 9/11 attacks revealed the murderous potential of radical Islamist groups, the US classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. That decision followed shortly after the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and more than 300 wounded. Hezbollah is suspected of working in coordination with Iran to carry out that attack.

This past July, Hezbollah marked the 18th anniversary of the AMIA massacre by carrying out a suicide bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria. The explosion killed five Israelis as well as their Bulgarian bus driver and wounded 32 Israelis.

In the time between the AMIA and Burgas attacks, Hezbollah has been involved in numerous acts of terrorism both at home in Lebanon – the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri comes to mind – and abroad.

In August of this year, the US sanctioned Hezbollah for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. David Cohen, the United States Department of Treasury’s under secretary for Terrorism and financial intelligence, told Al- Arabiya television that the latest action was “designed principally to expose the activity of Hezbollah in providing operational, logistical, and other sorts of support to the Syrian government in its repression of the Syrian people.”

A more thorough account of Hezbollah’s terrorist activities since its foundation in 1982 can be found in a 42-page paper titled “Timeline of Terror: A Concise History of Hezbollah Atrocities” produced by the British Henry Jackson Society, one of several pro-democracy think tanks and organizations lobbying the EU to ban Hezbollah.

Yet besides the Netherlands, which recognized Hezbollah as a terrorist organization a few years ago, and Britain, which since 2001 makes a distinction between Hezbollah’s political wing – which the UK does not consider a terrorist organization – and its military wing – which the UK does consider terrorist – no other European country has followed the US’s – and Canada’s – lead.

As a result, Hezbollah is free to operate in Europe raising money, recruiting supporters and plotting terrorist attacks.

Of all places, it is Germany that has become a center for Hezbollah’s rabidly anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist activities, with 950 members and supporters last year, up from 900 in 2010, according to an annual report put out by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

In August 2009, for instance, Alexander Ritzmann, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, found that a German charity for Lebanese orphans was really a front organization raising money for Hezbollah suicide bombers. Dozens of other similar “charities” continue to operate freely on European soil.

And in many cases donations to these charities are tax deductible, which means Germany and other European states are subsidizing a terrorist organization.

Ritzmann and others also suspect that the Hezbollah maintains trained military operatives throughout Europe who act as “sleeper cells” that can become active when called upon.

A European blacklist would undoubtedly have an adverse effect on Hezbollah. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, admitted that such a ban “would dry up the sources of finance” and “end moral, political and material support” for the terrorist organization.

In contrast, refraining from issuing such a ban would allow the Hezbollah to continue to operate freely on European soil. Just last month, White House counter-terrorism chief John O. Brennan said that European failure to join the US in designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization is undermining international counter-terrorism efforts. “Let me be clear,” Brennan said in a speech in Dublin, European resistance “makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens.”

Its about time Europe takes seriously the threat that Hezbollah represents.

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