Britain did this month what the European Union and its most important power, Germany, refuse to do: outlaw the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Specifically, London imposed the ban on Hezbollah’s so-called political wing following Britain’s 2008 ban against Hezbollah’s military wing. In doing so, the British government rejected the notion that Hezbollah is a “two-winged” group without unified command and control over its terror activities.
Berlin still clings to that delusion. On Friday, the German government rebuffed requests from the US, Israel and a number of Arab countries to outlaw all of Hezbollah.
Europe’s split-personality approach to Hezbollah puts it at odds with reality — not to mention Hezbollah leaders’ own view of their group.
In 2012, Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria, killing five Israelis and a Muslim bus driver. In response, the EU banned Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political wing.
“Hezbollah is a single, large organization. We have no wings that are separate from one another.”
The partial ban prompted Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim Mousawi to repeat what other top officials of the group have stressed over the years: “Hezbollah is a single, large organization. We have no wings that are separate from one another.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that an EU designation of the terror group in its entirety would dry up his fundraising in Europe.
But the EU continued to ignore Hezbollah’s self-described identity as a unitary organization. The rationale: Europe’s, in particular France’s and Germany’s, desire to continue a “critical dialogue.”
Hezbollah played a critical role in Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s scorched-earth policy that resulted in the deaths of more than 500,000 Syrians and a flood of refugees into Europe.
Their gamble didn’t pay off. Hezbollah played a critical role in Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s scorched-earth policy that resulted in the deaths of more than 500,000 Syrians and a flood of refugees into Europe.
To its credit, the UK has now recognized Hezbollah’s role in the destruction of Syria and its malign influence across the region. The Netherlands had been the only EU country to outlaw the entire organization, in 2004. Outside Europe, the Arab League, Canada, the United States and Israel all consider Hezbollah’s entire enterprise to be involved in terrorism.
As the main economic engine of Europe, Germany could influence a change in EU policy toward Hezbollah. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration has hidden behind the cloak of an alleged requirement for EU consensus to delay outlawing Hezbollah’s political wing. But the actions by the Dutch, if not the British, show that Berlin could act without EU consensus to brand Hezbollah a terrorist entity.
Germany has long been a hotbed of Hezbollah activity. The organization’s representatives raise funds, recruit members and spread a lethal anti-Semitic and jihadist ideology.
“The entire Hezbollah is against” Germany’s Basic Law, the country’s interior ministry recently declared, “because Hezbollah fights the right of the existence of the State of Israel with terrorist means. Such an objective is anti-Semitic in nature.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, who announced last year that he went into politics “because of Auschwitz,” stresses that everything must be done to protect Jewish life in Europe. Merkel declared in 2008 that Israel’s security is “nonnegotiable” for her government. Yet Merkel, Maas and the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, refuse to act against Hezbollah.
German officials claim that Merkel’s government can’t unilaterally prohibit the organization. But it has done so with other radical groups.
The real reason Germany (and the EU) hesitate to ban the whole of Hezbollah has to do with appeasing Iran, Hezbollah’s sponsor.
Berlin is well aware that Hezbollah is tied at the navel to Tehran. In 2010, Germany’s then-ambassador to Iran, Bernd Erbel, said he wanted to advance the “historical treasure of the German-Iranian friendship.”
German diplomats attended a celebration event at Iran’s embassy in Berlin to honor 1979, which brought a radical Islamic social order that is not shy about calling for the destruction of the US and Israel.
That treasured friendship was on display last month when German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a warm congratulatory telegram to Tehran to honor the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. German diplomats attended a celebration event at Iran’s embassy in Berlin to honor 1979, which brought a radical Islamic social order that is not shy about calling for the destruction of the US and Israel.
Germany, along with the rest of the EU, remains wedded to various fictions about the nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah. But Berlin and Brussels can’t deny the growing international consensus: There is only one Hezbollah, and it pursues its political ends through terror.
Mark Dubowitz is the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow.