May 1, 2020
Could Germany’s decision on Thursday to ban all Hezbollah activities on its soil compel the rest of the European Union to do the same?
Hours after Germany’s much-anticipated announcement, Vice President of the European Union Parliament Nicola Beer of Germany, Member of the European Parliament Lukas Mandl of Austria, and American diplomatic analyst Michael Doran joined AJC for an online discussion about the broader impact of Germany’s ban on Iran’s deadliest proxy. Germany and the Netherlands are the only EU countries to ban the global terror organization in its entirety; the United Kingdom, no longer a part of the EU, has done so as well.
Mandl, who chairs the Transatlantic Friends of Israel, an inter-parliamentary group convened by AJC’s Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute, said he hopes Germany’s decision will prompt the other 25 EU member states to move in the same direction.
“It’s not negotiable to fight antisemitism,” said the Austrian MEP. “It’s not negotiable to fight terrorism. The alternatives are clear and it’s clear where Europe has to stand.”
“We’re talking about a security threat to all the world, especially to all of Europe,” he added.
After a deadly Hezbollah attack in Bulgaria in 2012 and the arrest of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus, the EU added Hezbollah’s so-called “military wing” to its terrorism list in 2013. This imaginary distinction—which the group itself says is nonsense—enables Hezbollah to continue operating in Europe and leaves room for countries to consider the group a “legitimate” political party in Lebanon.
AJC has said the 2013 EU decision was an important step forward, but inadequate.
Beer said European countries do not share a common approach to Hezbollah because of various historical ties to Lebanon. Some countries claim an all-encompassing terrorist designation would impede diplomatic relations with Lebanon and disrupt its fragile political equilibrium. Others believe the social welfare it provides makes full designation impossible.
But the different wings of Hezbollah conceal a hybrid terrorist organization. All three wings—armed terrorist, political, and social welfare—work in complete synergy, using violent means to advance the group’s overarching objectives and those of its patron, Iran. Furthermore, countries that have designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization still maintain diplomatic relations with Lebanon to various degrees.
Last fall, AJC and the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) produced a fact-based analysis that makes the case for full designation. The report, titled Setting the Record Straight on Hezbollah, refutes the timeworn arguments against banning the terror group and demonstrates how full designation would strengthen Lebanon, protect the West, and promote stability across the Middle East.
Doran, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, said if anyone is responsible for destabilizing Lebanon, it is Hezbollah. Recent protests indicate the Lebanese people are aware of Hezbollah’s corruption, Doran said, adding that Germany’s action deals a real blow to Hezbollah at a crucial time.
“Lebanon is in an unprecedented crisis in general and the crisis presents Hezbollah with many tremendous challenges,” he said. “It should be our goal collectively, the goal of the Europeans and Americans together, to make sure the Lebanese people understand that the crisis was precipitated by Hezbollah, its connection to the banks in Lebanon, its willingness to use Lebanon as a base for Iranian activities.”
But Europe’s efforts to stop Hezbollah doesn’t end with a designation, Beer said.
“When we freeze all the assets, when no criminal and also no legal business is possible in Europe, then we will dry out Hezbollah, which has a lot of money to finance all of these attacks,” she said.
Because Hezbollah simultaneously fleeces the country, while funneling so-called charity to its citizens, the Lebanese people have come to rely on its so-called charity.
“I really can’t stand seeing European money going toward these terrorists,” Beer said. “We really should find reliable partners in the region because Lebanon’s people really need it.”
“Both are needed,” she continued, “not only to freeze assets but to stop putting money down to support the antisemitic and anti-Israel work of Hezbollah.”