UK parliament votes to ban all branches of Hezbollah

Although Conservative party members congratulated the decision to label the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as terrorist group, Labour vowed to block it.

DEMONSTRATORS FLY flags of the Hezbollah terrorist group at a Quds Day march in London, June 10, 2018 (photo credit: JOSH DELL)
DEMONSTRATORS FLY flags of the Hezbollah terrorist group at a Quds Day march in London, June 10, 2018
(photo credit: JOSH DELL)
The United Kingdom’s House of Commons voted on Tuesday night to ban all wings of Hezbollah due to its destabilizing influence in the Middle East, classing the movement as a terrorist organization.
The UK Labour Party allowed its MPs freedom to vote their conscience stating that there is “not sufficient evidence” that the organization meets proscription criteria and accusing the home secretary of taking the decision based on his “leadership ambitions.”
The party reportedly issued a “one-line whip” for the vote, expected to take place Tuesday evening, meaning that there is no binding instruction from the party how to vote and attendance at the vote is not mandatory.
Labour is not actively opposing the ban, however.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has for decades been a fierce critic of Israel and has questioned Israel’s right to exit, and famously once called officials in Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends.”
During the debate Labour MP Louise Ellman said that Hezbollah was not a friend to the United Kingdom. “Hezbollah is a terrorist organization acting through the world,” she said. “The Hezbollah terrorist flag is flown on the streets of London” and will continue to be flown unless such legislation is passed.
Independent MP Mike Gapes, the message has to go out to the metropolitan police that there is no place for terrorists or terrorists apologists in the UK.
Labour MP Wes Streeting said he supported the legislation, because “when I go home this evening I have to look myself in the eye.” He added, that Hezbollah makes no distinction between its political and military wing.
He was one of many politicians who also took issue with Hezbollah’s antisemitic statements. “Some of us will not be bystanders to Jew hatred. There is no doubt that Hezbollah is a barbaric murderous cult.”
On Monday, the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that the government “is no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that “it is clear the distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings does not exist.”
However, a Labour Party spokesman said in a statement in response to the decision that the Home Office, the UK’s interior ministry, had previously ruled that “there was not sufficient evidence that the political wing of Hezbollah fell afoul of proscription criteria,” and “Ministers have not yet provided any clear evidence to suggest this has changed.”
Despite these claims, it is well known that the most senior Hezbollah leaders themselves have stated that there is no difference between the party’s political and paramilitary operations.
Deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah Naim Qassem has said that “Hezbollah has a single leadership. All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership. The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel.”
Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has said that “the story of military wing and political wing is the work of the British.”
The Labour Party statement said, however, that banning the “political wing of Hezbollah would make relations with Lebanon difficult since Hezbollah is a member of the Lebanese coalition government.
“The Home Secretary must therefore now demonstrate that this decision was taken in an objective and impartial way, and driven by clear and new evidence, not by his leadership ambitions,” the party said.
MP Michael Gapes, who was one of nine Labour MPs to resign from the party last week over the party’s failure to tackle antisemitism and formulate a clear policy on Brexit, said that the one-line whip was designed to ensure that Corbyn and other hard-left MPs would not have to vote to proscribe Hezbollah.
“They are Unfit for government. And a Threat to national security,” Gapes tweeted.
Reuters contributed to this report.