The European Union makes a good decision on Hezbollah

EU member states should now take the next logical step and proscribe the whole organization of Hezbollah.

By ALEX BRUMMER
July 24, 2013 21:59
4 minute read.
Lebanon's Hezbollah supporters gesture as they march in Beirut, November 2011

Hezbollah march, fighters 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)

 
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The European Union’s interventions in the Middle East are not always entirely helpful. So it is nice to be able to welcome, along with Jewish communities worldwide, the EU’s recent decision to classify the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

It would now be desirable to see EU member states go one step further. They should follow the example of France, the Netherlands, Israel, Canada and the United States to take the next logical step and proscribe Hezbollah’s political wing as well.

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Senior figures within Hezbollah, including its deputy secretary, Gen. Naim Qassem, have acknowledged in the past that the distinction between the military and political wings is academic and that “Hezbollah has a single leadership.” It has made no secret of the fact that all political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership.

The EU now joins the United Kingdom – that pressed the case in Brussels – Australia, Bahrain, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Canada, the United States and other EU states, including France and the Netherlands, in banning the military wing.

The hope must now be that the move by the EU will allow greater cross-border cooperation enabling it to monitor and disrupt operations of Hezbollah’s military wing within the borders of the European Union. It will also mean that accounts, assets and funding for Hezbollah’s military wing and related personnel will be frozen.

This should seriously damage Hezbollah’s capabilities in Europe, the Middle East and around the world. Financial sanctions of this kind have been shown to be highly effective in disabling and closing down the activities of terrorist groups.

The classification follows intensive work by all Britain’s cross communal Jewish organizations. Among those involved have been the Board of Deputies, the UK Jewish community’s democratically elected leadership, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust.



The initiative was take at a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron in January and in key contacts in the EU in May. In the last month alone, representatives of the Board of Deputies have met with the prime minister of Romania and the ambassadors of Hungary, Lithuania and Poland to press forward the case for proscription. We have also been in contact with the embassy of the Republic of Ireland.

All of this has been done with the cooperation, strong assistance and invaluable input of the Jewish Leadership Council and the European Jewish Congress. The EJC, that has been in almost constant contact with the Commission, also played a key role.

Last autumn the Board of Deputies met with the Bulgarian Embassy for an update on the investigations into the 2012 bomb attack in Burgas and to urge their early completion and publication.

Knowledge of the acute dangers posed by Hezbollah have been growing rapidly since July 18, 2012, when the bomb attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The Bulgarian government and those investigating the attack concluded that there were “wellgrounded reasons” to suggest that the two main suspects belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah.

The Board of Deputies, along with other British Jewish leadership organizations, have long been concerned about the dangers posed by Hezbollah to regional security in the Middle East, and to Jewish communities around the world. The attack in Burgas was a sharp reminder of how these atrocities draw in civilians of other countries.

The Burgas attack occurred on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Argentinean Jewish community center, AMIA, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.

The AMIA atrocity has long been linked to Hezbollah and the Iranian government.

In 2012, Hezbollah was linked to attacks or foiled plots in Thailand, Azerbaijan, India, Georgia, Kenya and an arrest in Cyprus.

Hezbollah, financed by Iran, has been openly fighting alongside the Assad regime in the Syria conflict, which has left around 100,000 dead according to the United Nations. For almost three decades, Hezbollah has maintained a policy of violent hostility towards Israel, including the indiscriminate bombing of Israeli cities in 2006, killing 44 civilians and displacing up to 500,000 Israelis.

In our conversations with European embassies and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we have noted the direct link between the military and political wings of Hezbollah. The political wing clearly operates to assist the idealistically militant nature of Hezbollah, and the remit of Hezbollah’s leadership clearly pertains to both politics and violence. We will be working closely with our colleagues from across Europe to continue conversations with EU countries to promote the full proscription of Hezbollah onto the EU terrorist list.

What happened on Monday was a significant step toward achieving that goal. We hope that it will decrease Hezbollah’s potential for violence against Europeans, as well as Syrians, Israelis and the wider international community. We thank all those who have helped to secure this decision, and particularly the UK government that played a leading role in Brussels.

EU member states should now take the next logical step and proscribe the whole organization of Hezbollah, as the division between the military and political wings is clearly a chimera that needs to be fully exposed.

The writer is the chairman of the International Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

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