October 2, 2019
On July 18, 2012, exactly 18 years after Hezbollah attacked the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, a bus carrying Israeli tourists in the Black Sea coastal town of Burgas, Bulgaria was targeted by the terrorist group.
A bomb, detonated remotely, killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver and wounded 32 others. Investigators soon discovered that Hezbollah had chosen Burgas because of its popularity with Israeli tourists and lax security.
Pointing to the deadly attack on European soil, AJC urged the European Union to take action against the Iranian-sponsored group and declare all of it a terrorist organization. But in the end, the EU only designated Hezbollah’s military branch, legitimizing its so-called “political” faction and potentially doing more damage than countries that have done nothing at all.
Now AJC is urging the EU to finish the job and designate Hezbollah a global terror organization in its entirety.
“How can Europe pretend that Hezbollah is something other than what it actually is and continue this charade of bifurcating one indivisible, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and antisemitic organization currently operating on their soil?” said AJC CEO David Harris.
During the United Nations General Assembly last week, AJC leaders met face-to-face with heads of state and senior government officials. The push also includes advertising and academic heft. Full-page ads ran in The New York Times and other international newspapers. Videos and materials have been circulated on social media. And TV spots ran on New York cable news during the UN General Assembly.
In addition, AJC and the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) have produced a fact-based report titled Setting the Record Straight on Hezbollah. One by one it refutes claims made by governments against designating Hezbollah in its entirety and demonstrates how full designation strengthens Lebanon, protects the West, and promotes stability across the Middle East.
To be sure, reining in terrorists requires broad international cooperation beyond the European continent. And two European countries – the Netherlands and UK – have already banned Hezbollah. But a unanimous designation by all 28 EU nations would significantly curb Hezbollah’s fundraising abilities and weaken its developing infrastructure on the European continent that enables the group to carry out its attacks.
AJC believes the most logical country to lead the charge would be Germany, where more than 1,000 Hezbollah operatives are known to raise money and plot attacks. But while domestic leaders support such a measure, German diplomats object for fear of cutting off diplomatic relations with Lebanon, where Hezbollah’s so-called political party controls several government ministries.
“You could still talk to Hezbollah the whole day if you need to,” said Remko Leemhuis, director of AJC Berlin. “This is about the safety of Germany and this needs to be banned. If something happens, God forbid, and there are attacks against Jewish targets by Hezbollah, it’s on them. It would be better to act preemptively.”
Ten of the main claims in the ICT report, from Hezbollah’s record as one of the most destabilizing forces in Lebanon, to its transformation into a dangerous Hybrid terrorist organization and its role in spreading virulent antisemitism around the world, have been boiled down to individual fact sheets available in Spanish, French, and German.
The push, which started earlier this year, has already gained steam. On the anniversary of the AMIA attack, Argentina put measures in place to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group and cripple its fundraising capability on Argentine soil. At AJC Global Forum 2019 in June, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, denounced Iran and Hezbollah. The U.S. also has imposed harder hitting sanctions.
“Hezbollah represents the complete and total violation of human dignity, Jewish human dignity,” Harris said. “This is a no-brainer.”