A poster of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in southern Lebanon.
(photo credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS)
In July 2013 European Union governments agreed to blacklist the armed wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. For years the US and Israel had been urging Europeans to ban Hezbollah, but it was only after Hezbollah carried out a terrorist attack on European soil that the EU was moved to act.
The attack on an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, which resulted in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian Muslim bus driver and the wounding of another 32 Israelis, forced the Europeans to recognize the obvious: Hezbollah is not a legitimate political movement; it is a terrorist organization that has no qualms about targeting innocent civilians.
Yet even after the EU agreed to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, it was careful to make a distinction between the “military” arm of Hezbollah and the “political” arm, as though there was a difference between the two.
The thinking among European politicians was that singling out Hezbollah, considered a legitimate political party inside Lebanon, would result in diplomatic blowback abroad and damaged relations with Muslims at home. Indeed, many European politicians – particularly on the Left – are convinced that Hezbollah is so popular that such a designation would be seen as a declaration of war against Islam itself.
The truth is that it is absolutely essential that the EU make a critical distinction between Islamists – those who adhere to a totalitarian ideology advocating the most brutal of methods for the advancement of their goals – and the majority of Muslims, who, given a choice, would opt for a version of Islam that does not call for the massacre of innocent civilians.
That’s why the call Thursday by members of the European Parliament to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to designate the “political” arm of Hezbollah as well as a terrorist organization is so important. Europeans, who are presently grappling with a huge influx of migrants from Muslim countries, cannot afford to abandon their own values and moral and cultural distinctions.
While liberal democracies rightly balk at restricting political freedoms, there should be no doubt on what to do when it comes to Hezbollah. As Danish MEP Anders Vistisen, one of the three co-initiators of the letter, said: “It is high time to acknowledge that Islamist-inspired terrorism is not only a threat to the Middle East, but is also the top threat to Europe’s security.”
A letter sent to Mogherini was signed by a cross section of 60 members of the European Parliament. The other co-initiators were Lars Adaktusson of Sweden and Péter Niedermüller of Hungary.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who has been working with American and European politicians to ban organizations such as Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis, including the 2001 assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi, said that “it is time for the European Union to ban the entirety of Hezbollah and stop the money, recruitment of terrorists, and shows of public support which are taking place on European soil. This letter is a welcome initiative, and sooner or later the European Union will have to do the right thing.”
Hezbollah helped Iran expand its influence into Syria; it dragged Lebanon into a war with Israel in 2006, and seems poised to do so again in 2018; it is responsible, according to the UN-affiliated Special Tribunal for Lebanon, for the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s prime minister Rafik Hariri; it has also carried out terrorist attacks in Argentina and Bulgaria, and is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Lebanon.
Maintaining an artificial distinction between “political” and “military” activities is absurd and sends out a problematic message to moderate Muslims that Europe has lost the will to fight for its values.