Belgium rejects putting Hezbollah on EU terror list

Brussels prefers isolating armed subgroups or individuals to classifying Hezbollah as a whole as a terrorist organization.

Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – The Belgian Foreign Ministry has rejected the idea of classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization but is, however, open to penalties against parts of it.
“We believe that it could make sense, instead of qualifying Hezbollah as a whole, to isolate armed subgroups, or individuals. This method has proven its merits, and deserves a try,” Michel Malherbe, a spokesman for the Belgium ministry, wrote to The Jerusalem Post by email on Thursday.
“Belgium is of course not naïve. We don’t have own personnel on site, yet we perfectly realize that Hezbollah has, to say the least, a dubious, shady side. However, we also know that we can only weigh on the situation through a coherent European position. To that end, we will not increase polarization among the 27 member states of the EU, but, to the contrary, reinforce the majority view,” the spokesman added.
“Affecting that European view is the fact that Hezbollah is also a player on the political scene in Lebanon. Syria is already in flames; condemning Hezbollah in its totality could aggravate the regional situation. You may also be aware that Belgium still contributes troops to UNIFIL,” the UN force is southern Lebanon, Malherbe said.
Asked about Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah’s anti-Semitic remarks and whether they met the EU definition of modern anti-Semitism, the spokesman declined to comment.
Nasrallah reportedly said, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”
France is widely viewed as the main obstacle among the main European powers to designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
In late October, the Obama administration counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, lambasted the Europeans for their failure to outlaw Hezbollah. “Let me be clear” that European opposition to a ban “makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens,” Brennan said, speaking in Dublin.
The German Foreign Ministry told the Post that it was “considering” a ban of Hezbollah. Germany has experienced a rise to 950 Hezbollah members in 2012.
The Dutch and British foreign ministers recently advocated placing Hezbollah on the EU terror list. Hezbollah is already illegal as a group in the Netherlands. The United Kingdom has only banned its armed wing.
US and Israeli officials believe a joint Hezbollah-Iranian operation was behind the suicide bombing of an Israeli tour bus Bulgaria in July, resulting in the deaths of five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver.