Why Hezbollah is a terrorist organization

There must be a zero tolerance principle for transnational terrorism just as there is a zero tolerance principle for racism.

Hezbollah supporters at funeral of slain member 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah supporters at funeral of slain member 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Yesterday was the first anniversary of the terrorist bombing of a tourist bus in Bulgaria, killing five Israelis and one Belgian, and wounding dozens more. Bulgarian authorities have confirmed – yet again – Hezbollah’s responsibility for the terror attack – with two of the Hezbollah operatives being Western citizens – a Canadian and an Australian – and have transmitted evidence of Hezbollah terrorist complicity to European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels next Monday to determine whether Hezbollah should be designated as a terrorist organization.
In an eerie but not unrevealing coincidence, the Bulgarian bombing took place on the 18th anniversary of the bombing of the Jewish Cultural Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 87 people and injured more than 300 – and which the Argentinean minister of justice described to me as the greatest atrocity in Argentina since the end of the Second World War.
Indeed, Argentinean Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s exhaustive 800-page report on the AMIA bombing can serve as an evidentiary blueprint for EU ministers, as its findings of fact and conclusions of law serve as case and cause for the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, including that: • The Argentinean terrorist atrocity exposed the Iranian-Hezbollah strategic partnership at the highest level. For the terrorist bombing was conceived, planned and ordered by the highest echelons in the Iranian government, with the report also documenting the central role of Hezbollah in carrying out the AMIA attack, characterizing it as the “terrorist proxy of the Iranian regime.”
• The attack must be seen – something which is often overlooked or forgotten – as an act of anti- Jewish terrorism. “Any interpretation of the terrorist attack that ignores this salient characteristic,” Nisman wrote, “runs the risk of sinning by omission.”
• It should be noted that this terrorist atrocity followed the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina two years earlier where hundreds were killed and wounded as well.
We are also marking the 30th anniversary of the emergence of Hezbollah as a global terrorist threat with its massive bombing in 1983 of the US Embassy and US and French barracks in Beirut, and which terrorist activity continued throughout the ’80s.
These terrorist attacks – and the considerations underpinning Special Prosecutor Nisman’s report – would alone warrant designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Regrettably, the EU did not act then – but there are 13 other compelling considerations that make it imperative for European foreign ministers to act now.
First, there is comprehensive evidence of the Iranian-Hezbollah penetration into Latin America.
Indeed, in a little-noticed but highly revealing 800- page report released recently, the Argentinean Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman also documented how the Iranian-Hezbollah strategic partnership has been used “to execute terrorist attacks whenever the Iranian regime decides to do so, both directly or through its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”
Nisman points out that there are “clear signs that the terrorist networks established in South American countries in the ’80s and ’90s are still in place for the long term,” and “ready to be used whenever Iran needs them.”
Added Nisman, “it could be today, it could be a long time from now.”
Second, the damning admission this week that Hezbollah had been training operatives in Nigeria – and would have acquired enough weapons to ignite a terrorist war – dovetails with recent court cases in Kenya and Nigeria convicting Iranian and Hezbollah operatives of involvement in terrorist activity. This is all ample evidence of the expanding Iranian-Hezbollah terrorist network in both East and West Africa and demonstrates how Africa can become a beachhead for terrorism against American, European and Israeli – as well as African – targets. Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Ivory Coast are also home to Hezbollah operatives who are heavily involved in funding and logistics.
Third, the Iranian-Hezbollah strategic partnership has intensified with its involvement in Syria – where some 4,000 Hezbollah fighters are aiding and abetting Bashar Assad’s criminal regime – and complicit in crimes against humanity against the Syrian people – with Syria itself becoming increasingly an Iranian protectorate. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah no longer denies allegations of Hezbollah’s involvement but in fact boasts of Hezbollah’s buttressing, sustaining, and even leading the Syrian assault as in Qusair.
Fourth, Hezbollah’s criminal complicity in Syria has further destabilized Lebanon, a country whose political independence and territorial integrity have been both mortgaged to Hezbollah. As Tony Dadran, a leading expert on Syria and Lebanon, has put it, Hezbollah “not only undermines Lebanon’s security, institutions and political assistance, but is also on track to compromise its foreign relations, ruin its financial system, and destroy whatever remains of its social cohesion.”
In a word, Hezbollah has used both the threat of violence and actual violence – including political assassination – to gain political power.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon that investigated the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri indicted four senior members of Hezbollah in his murder. One of them was Mustafa Badr a- Din, the head of Hezbollah’s Jihad Council. Nor is this the only murder attributable to Hezbollah, as it stands accused of killing opponents – including government ministers, members of parliament and journalists – and even the Lebanese police investigator who uncovered Hezbollah’s involvement in the assassination of Hariri.
Fifth, Hezbollah has been playing a particularly prejudicial and pernicious role in the Middle East, threatening the government of Bahrain – which has itself declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization – killing civilians in Iraq, undermining Yemen and Egypt, and stockpiling over 50,000 missiles, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, for terrorist attacks against Israel.
Sixth, Hezbollah has once again emerged as a terrorist threat in Europe. After engaging in terrorist attacks in Europe in the ’80s, from Paris to Copenhagen, and maintaining, as Nisman recently reported, its terrorist infrastructures in Europe all these years – engaged in terrorist financing, recruitment, intelligence gathering and the like – the evidence respecting Hezbollah’s terrorist involvement in Bulgaria and Cyprus, and reports of terrorist tentacles in France, Germany, Greece and elsewhere – recalls Alberto Nisman’s warning that terrorist networks are there to use whenever Iran needs them.
Seventh, Hezbollah’s global terrorist footprint, as set forth above, has been further exposed in the recent US State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, where it documents the “clear resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism and that of “Tehran’s ally Hezbollah.”
The report finds that “Hezbollah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s.”
Eighth, the comprehensive and compelling evidence respecting the globality of the Hezbollah terrorist threat – and indeed complicity in terrorist acts – clearly satisfies the European threshold criteria for designating terrorist organizations as set forth in EU cp931, as terrorism expert Matthew Levitt recently testified before the EU.
Ninth, Europe is obligated under international law to take the necessary steps to combat threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. In particular, Europe is obliged to implement its international law obligations pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1368, which calls on the “international community to redouble their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks”; Resolution 1373, which calls on “States to work together urgently to prevent and suppress terrorist acts, including through increased cooperation and full implementation of relevant international conventions relating to terrorism,” including that “all states shall prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts” and “freeze without delay funds and other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts.... ”; and Resolution 1377, which underlines the obligation on states to deny financial and all other forms of support and safe haven to terrorists and those supporting terrorism.
These obligations, together with the 13 United Nations Conventions on Terrorism and UN jurisprudence, impose an unequivocal obligation on the EU to take the long overdue step of designating Hezbollah as the terrorist organization that it so clearly is.
Tenth, transnational terrorism in general – and Hezbollah terrorism in particular – constitutes a fundamental assault on the security of a democracy and on individual and collective rights to life, liberty and the security of the person. The foundational principle of anti-terrorism law is the protection of human security – the security of a democracy and the human rights of its citizens. By failing to black-list Hezbollah, the EU not only violates this foundational principle of human security but those very values for which it was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.
Eleventh, an important consequence of the black-listing of Hezbollah will be its criminalization throughout Europe, thereby enabling member states to impede the mobility, fund-raising, intelligence gathering and recruitment of Hezbollah operatives and their agents and assets. Hezbollah’s involvement with transnational crime in support of international terrorism can only be effectively combatted by the coordinated targeting of Hezbollah operatives and assets. Moreover, it is well established that Europe has been a transit point for money laundering, trafficking in narcotics and counterfeit pharmaceuticals by Hezbollah operatives.
The blacklisting of Hezbollah will secure a coordinated response to its terrorist, criminal, and fund-raising activities.
Twelfth, Hezbollah is not only a mega-terrorist organization, but one that has an objective which is genocidal and an ideology which is anti-Semitic – not because I say so but because its leadership and declarations so proclaim. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has complained that the task of hunting down Jews worldwide is too burdensome, observing that “if all the Jews were gathered in Israel, it would save us the trouble of going after them world-wide,” while further proclaiming “an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth” – incitements to hate and genocide in standing violation of the Genocide Convention.
Thirteenth, one of the more important – yet oft ignored dynamics – inhibiting the development of an effective counterterrorism law and policy has been the blurring of the moral and juridical divides occasioned by the false mantra “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” often invoked to characterize Hezbollah as a “resistance organization” or an organization of “freedom fighters.”
As the late US senator Henry Jackson put it: “The idea that one person’s terrorist is another person’s ‘freedom fighter’ cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters don’t blow up buses containing noncombatants; terrorist murderers do. Freedom fighters don’t set out to capture and slaughter schoolchildren; terrorist murders do.... It is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word ‘freedom’ to be associated with acts of terrorists.”
Simply put, and this is something that the EU must act upon, there must be a zero tolerance principle for transnational terrorism just as there is a zero tolerance principle for racism.