March 19, 2019 — Berlin, Germany
This piece originally appeared in Jüdische Allgemeine.
Few countries are as resistant to listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety as Germany. Although Hezbollah is one of the world’s largest and best-armed terror organizations, German opinion leaders avoid stating the obvious, and insist upon the fiction that Hezbollah is an organization with splits between a “political” and a “military” wing.
Behind the refusal to place Hezbollah on the EU terror organization list lies the claim that shutting the terror group out of Europe will destabilize the Lebanese government, which includes Hezbollah. This argument overlooks the fact that Hezbollah is already destabilizing Lebanon; a state within a state with de facto control of the country’s south.
TEHRAN German and EU politicians also shy away from taking this step as it would inevitably lead to tension with Iran, which uses Hezbollah as an extended arm. The EU is trying to avoid additional complications with Iran as it tries to save the Iran nuclear deal. Europe, and the West as a whole, can no longer be intimidated by such threats from Iran, as has happened all to often in the past. It is time to face reality.
Like many terror organizations, Hezbollah camouflages its true motives by purporting to be a social charity. Yet its emblem, a cocked rifle, tells the true story. Even in Lebanon, the group does not shy away from using military force if it sees its interests threatened.
Hezbollah has amassed under the eyes of UNIFIL an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets directed at Israel, a strategic threat for the security of the Jewish state. Likewise, the Shiite Islamists rushed to the aid of the Assad regime and participated in the regime's crimes against its own people, whose victims were and still are Sunni Muslims.
ISLAMISTS Hezbollah activities are not just a regional problem, but a global one, and have been for decades. Members of Hezbollah carried out the 1992 Mykonos attack in Berlin and committed a suicide attack in Burgas, Bulgaria that left six Israeli tourists dead and others badly wounded in 2012.
However, Hezbollah is not just a global terrorist organization, but a world-wide criminal network operating in the drug trade. Profits from these criminal activities are also growing in Germany. Moreover, our continent is a haven and refuge for the organization. There is a danger that Germany and Europe will be used increasingly as an arena for preparing terrorist attacks. Particularly in the case of a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran or Hezbollah, it can be assumed that the “Party of God” will attack Jewish and Israeli targets in this or other European countries.
Although Hezbollah operates largely in a clandestine manner, the annual Al-Quds Day demonstrations that take place each year underline the antisemitic character of the organization, whose flags proclaim the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.
WINGS Although United Kingdom’s recent ban will not change this manifestation of antisemitism, which also takes place annually in London, the ban prevents emblems of the organization being on display, as was customary until now. In this regard, Berlin is indeed a pioneer, with the police annually issuing a prohibition on the display of Hezbollah’s symbols since 2016.
All these activities make clear that Hezbollah is an extraordinarily dangerous terrorist and criminal organization. The idea that it can be divided into two distinct wings is devoid of reality. This distinction should be done away with, as EU states only deprive themselves of effective security measures. As long as supporters collect money for supposedly benevolent purposes, they cannot be prosecuted. EU states cannot possibly know what happens with this money once it is within Lebanon.
Germany should follow the British and Dutch examples. Why would Germany, of all countries, tolerate the presence of an avidly antisemitic terror organization that is a threat to Jewish life and the state of Israel on its soil? It would serve Germany well, especially against the backdrop of its history, to take the initiative in listing this antisemitic organization as a terrorist group. Germany’s word carries weight. Others would undoubtedly follow. This step would also be a practical contribution in the fight against antisemitism and the guarantee of Israel’s security.
Deidre Berger is Director of American Jewish Committee (AJC) Berlin.