No More European Excuses on Hezbollah

Wendy Rosen
March 6, 2012

This past July, a bomb went off in Burgas, Bulgaria, murdering five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver, and wounding dozens more. After a six-month investigation, the Bulgarian minister of the interior recently announced the findings: The atrocity was carried out and financed by the Lebanese-based Muslim group Hezbollah, whose anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideology is well known. Great credit goes to Bulgaria for its thorough and professional investigation, which did not shy away from pinpointing the perpetrator.

Word about a similar plot is now emerging from Cyprus, where a Hezbollah operative has admitted to tracking the location of Jews for the terrorist organization. Until now, the European Union has refused to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Two of its member states — the United Kingdom and the Netherlands — do designate it as such, as do the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Immediately after the Burgas bombing, the president of the European Union said: “Should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organization.” In light of the information turned up in the Bulgarian investigation and the Cyprus interrogations, can the EU continue to bury its head in the sand?

Hezbollah’s gruesome record goes back three decades. In 1983, its suicide bombers killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French peacekeeping troops in Beirut. Among its subsequent acts of violence, Hezbollah was identified by a UN tribunal as responsible for the truck bombing that killed Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in 2005. Several years later, Hezbollah took over West Beirut in what the government at the time called a “bloody coup.” More than 100 people, many of them civilians, were killed.

The group’s activity has even reached the Western Hemisphere. A special Argentinean prosecutor who investigated the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds injured, identified Hezbollah and its Iranian confederates as the perpetrators.

Since placement on the list of terrorist organizations would allow EU members to freeze Hezbollah’s bank accounts and facilitate cross-border cooperation in apprehending and arresting Hezbollah operatives in Europe, its reluctance to do so has made it easier for the organization to recruit, plan and carry out its horrific activity.

Fear of reprisal against EU states might have been psychologically understandable, if not morally defensible, when Hezbollah appeared to be using Europe simply as a base of operations in the Middle East. But unfortunately, the attack in Bulgaria indicates that Western targets are already part of these terrorists’ plans, so turning the other cheek has had no real deterrent effect.

Another argument for holding off on declaring Hezbollah a terrorist entity is that the organization also has a “political” wing, one that wields considerable power in Lebanon, and that weakening it would destabilize that country. But Hezbollah’s “political” presence, which includes a private army that makes it a state-within-a-state, in fact destabilizes Lebanon. That was clearly the case in 2006, when its missile attacks on Israel started a war that led to many civilian casualties and devastated southern Lebanon. Since then, Hezbollah has received new supplies of missiles from Iran in preparation for the next confrontation with Israel.

It is time for our friends in the EU to reconsider their excuses and to officially declare Hezbollah the terrorist entity that it is.

Wendy Rosen is regional director of the Seattle office of the American Jewish Committee.

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