May 28, 2013 | The Jerusalem Post
Israel Key to Berlin Hezbollah Terror Label
Israeli diplomats traveled recently to Berlin and presented court documents showing Hezbollah’s role in terrorism within the European Union.
The meticulous documentation collected by Israeli officials played a critical role in changing attitudes among German foreign ministry officials who were reluctant to include Hezbollah in the EU’s terror list.
The delegation’s trip to Berlin was reported last week on the blog of the daily Die Welt newspaper. The paper’s foreign-policy editor wrote the Israeli file contained three decades of German court verdicts covering Hezbollah.
“The Israelis took over the role of doing the homework for the federal government,” wrote the editor.
The Israelis presented a wide range of Hezbollah illicit and terrorist activity in the Federal Republic, including the Mykonos trial in Berlin and recent administrative court rulings expelling Hezbollah members from Germany.
A Berlin criminal court convicted in 1997 four men for the 1992 murders of dissident Iranian-Kurdish leaders in the Greek restaurant Mykonos in West Berlin. The court asserted that the executions were carried out by the “highest state levels” in Tehran. Prosecutors said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and then-Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani ordered the assassinations.
The Mykonos killings were a joint Iran-Hezbollah operation.
Israeli efforts to persuade the Germans to sanction Hezbollah provide a rare window into the so-called German- Israeli special relationship and the clashing views of what constitutes terrorism and threats to the Jewish state.
The Merkel administration has long vehemently rejected Israel’s request to ban Hezbollah from the EU. Last week, German diplomats issued a statement reversing the country’s longstanding policy toward the Lebanese Shi’ite militia: “In the light of discussions we have had with our partners following the terrorist attack in Burgas [in Bulgaria], Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle supports listing at least the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the EU.”
The statement continued, “The German position is based on an increasingly clearer picture of the facts and on the progress achieved by Cypriot authorities in analyzing terrorist activities. Minister Westerwelle hopes that the necessary consultations within the EU can be concluded rapidly.”
Bulgaria’s interior ministry said in February that two Hezbollah combatants killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver last July. A criminal court in Cyprus convicted in March a self-confessed Hezbollah member for plotting to murder Israelis on the island.
The EU is slated to discuss a ban of Hezbollah’s armed wing at an early June meeting in Brussels.
The most recent Israeli visit to Germany followed an earlier whirlwind tour of major European capitals. The Jerusalem Post and Ma’ariv reported in January that Israel revealed documentary material about Hezbollah’s role in destabilizing Syria and joining forces with Bashar Assad’s regime to wipe out opposition groups. Hezbollah’s narcotics and money-laundering operations were also part of Israel’s dossier.
The case of Hezbollah’s 2000 kidnapping of Elhanan Tannenbaum was cited in Israel’s documentation. Tannenbaum, an Israeli businessman and a reserve colonel in the IDF, was released as part of a prisoner exchange in 2004. The Germans had previously raised concerns that Hezbollah would challenge a ban in European courts based on insufficient evidence. The second wave of Israeli documentation, which centered on court cases implicating Hezbollah in European terrorism, seems to have been the tipping point for the Germans.
Hezbollah has used German territory to raise funds for the families of suicide bombers involved in killing Israelis. A 2009 report from the European Foundation for Democracy, titled Hizbullah’s Fund-raising Organization in Germany, revealed that the Orphans Project Lebanon (Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon e.V.), situated in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, is “the German branch of a Hezbollah suborganization” that “promotes suicide bombings” and aims to destroy Israel.
The Federal Republic still allows the Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon e.V. to operate but eliminated its tax subsidy several years ago.
Germany has a large Hezbollah organization on its soil. According to a German domestic-intelligence agency, there are an estimated 950 members as of 2011. It is unclear if Germany’s interior ministry will evict Hezbollah members from Germany and shut down the Hezbollah-controlled Orphans Project Lebanon.
The Post has learned that Hans-Peter Friedrich, Germany’s interior minister, favors a robust crackdown on Hezbollah, in contrast to the Foreign Ministry.
Friedrich’s predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble banned reception of Hezbollah Al-Manar TV in hotels in 2008. The partial ban, however, did not apply to residences.
France has outlawed all Al- Manar programming because of anti- Semitism.