Hezbollah is a terrorist entity. The EU must not be afraid to say so

The EU’s fear of upsetting the fragile political balance between communities in Lebanon if it were to place the entire Hezbollah organization on the EU terror list is unwarranted.

The Hezbollah flag (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Hezbollah flag
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The recent German government’s blacklisting of Hezbollah in its entirety is a significant step in the global fight against terrorism and Iranian aggression. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and our allies across the world – the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council – have all designated the entire Hezbollah a terrorist organization. It is therefore high time for the European Union (EU) to join the international consensus in ceasing its differentiation between Hezbollah’s so-called “political” and “military” wings, and outlaw the entire organization.
The false distinction between the two wings came about after Hezbollah bombed a bus filled with Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, killing six and wounding several others. As a consequence, the EU could no longer deny Hezbollah’s terrorist activities. But in order to not upset its relations with Lebanon where Hezbollah is a significant political player - it introduced a theoretical distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings, of which only the latter was outlawed in July 2013. It should be noted that senior Hezbollah leadership consistently and vehemently deny that there is any distinction between their “wings,” and stress that it is one and the same organization.
The EU’s fear of upsetting the fragile political balance between communities in Lebanon if it were to place the entire Hezbollah organization on the EU terror list is unwarranted. Our allies and others, who have blacklisted Hezbollah fully, continue to maintain strong relations with the Lebanese institutions, including state security agencies and the Lebanese Armed Forces.
In fact, Hezbollah is a source of instability in Lebanon. Since its inception in 1982 as an Iranian proxy, it created a state within a state, ruling predominantly Shi’ite areas in southern Lebanon. Certain districts have even become off-limits for Lebanese security forces. Hezbollah’s increasing control over government, its sectarian politics and the rampant corruption by the political elite, gave rise to popular protests in late 2019.
People rallied under the Lebanese flag, and for the first time dared to openly criticize Hezbollah. Unprecedented calls of “Terrorists, terrorists, Hezbollah are terrorists,” “Here is Lebanon, not Iran,” and “We don”t want any other army in Lebanon other than the Lebanese Army” resonated through the Lebanese streets. Protesters were attacked and beaten up by Hezbollah thugs. But even that could not deter the protesters; they kept defiantly protesting and criticizing the political elite day after day.
WHAT DID the protests achieve? After three months, Lebanon got a new, supposedly “technocrat” government. However, it is a far cry from the protesters’ demands. The new government is the brainchild of Hezbollah, which leads the current parliamentary coalition for the first time in Lebanon’s history, and holds four key ministries.
The citizens of Lebanon are not the only ones suffering under Hezbollah’s rule, or the only ones experiencing its terrorism. In Syria, many civilians have been victims of atrocities by the Assad regime, heavily supported by thousands of Hezbollah fighters. In Israel, civilians have often been the victims of rocket attacks from Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Lebanon.
Currently, Hezbollah has more than 120,000 rockets pointed at Israel, in violation of United Nations Resolution 1701. In Yemen, Hezbollah has been active in support of the Iran-backed Houthis. In Bahrain, security forces face continuous threats from Hezbollah-aligned organizations. The list goes on.
The Middle East was where Hezbollah originated, but the organization is a global threat. In Latin America, Hezbollah maintains deep roots with the drug trade and its brutal cartels. In 1994, Hezbollah was behind the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina, better known as the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds others. In Africa, Hezbollah is known to raise funds, solicit recruits and plot attacks against Western and Israeli targets.
In Europe, Hezbollah is known for its criminal activities, including money laundering, drug trafficking, counterfeiting currency and clothing, as well as fundraising and recruiting people for its so-called “charity” programs. It has assassinated opponents and bombed innocent civilians. It has become undeniable over the years that Hezbollah equals terrorism, crime and a significant security threat. It was therefore a positive step that the so-called “military” wing of Hezbollah was placed on the EU terrorism list in 2013.
The time has now come to face reality and recognize that there are no different “wings” but that the whole organization is one and the same: a criminal terrorist group. The whole organization needs to urgently be proscribed on the EU terrorism list as a safeguard of our security. Terrorism is terrorism, and no exceptions can be made.
The author is a Swedish member of the European Parliament for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). He sits on the Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs committees.