Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

AJC reiterates call for EU ban on Hezbollah

In an interview with the news site Axios, Bahaa Hariri, elder brother of the Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, stated that Israel and Lebanon should end their border dispute and start working on a peace agreement. “The land border is like an open wound that gives Hezbollah room for manoeuvre,” said Hariri, adding that Hezbollah, supported by Iran, cannot be part of the Lebanese government and “should instead be declared a terrorist organisation”.

Hariri’s words echo the appeal of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the European branch of the American Jewish Committee, which has long been calling for the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

The treatment of Hezbollah is one of Europe’s most resounding foreign policy failures. In July 2013, the European Union of contradictions stated that Hezbollah is indeed a terrorist organization, but only half of it. Brussels has made a theoretical split of the organisation, adding only the “military wing” and not the “political wing” to its black list of terrorists.

Just this week, in a webinar focused on Italy, AJC reaffirmed the urgent need to act and to put an end to this make-believe. According to Lisa Palmieri-Billig, representative in Italy and liaison to the Holy See of the American Jewish Committee, “the EU made up this differentiation claiming that a complete ban would endanger diplomatic relations with Lebanon”, but Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata noted that “there is no basis for this argument: Hezbollah is banned in many countries that continue to maintain diplomatic relations with the Lebanese government”.

As of today, Hezbollah is banned in Israel, by the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and in the USA (1997), Canada (2002), the Netherlands (2004), Great Britain (2019), Argentina (2019), Paraguay (2019), Colombia (2020), and Honduras (2020). Recently, Germany (2020), Lithuania (2020) and Estonia (2020) have joined the ban.

Although the terrorist organisation has cells and networks within the EU, little is known in Brussels about the activities of God’s “militia” (not “party”).

In September 2020, the U.S. Department of State made public the discovery of safe houses and hideouts throughout Europe, which housed huge quantities of explosives and chemicals for the manufacture of powerful devices.

In 2015, a warehouse containing 8.3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was discovered in Cyprus. Six months later, four hiding places containing three tonnes of the same material were found in London; it is the same substance that caused the August 2020 blast in Beirut’s Port.

The  AJC calls for a total ban on Hezbollah in the EU, and for the entire organisation to be included in the list of terrorist organisations at a European level.

The AJC’s appeal is in line with commonly accepted values in Europe, as described in the Preamble of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: Fundamental freedoms are the basis of justice and peace in the world, and this is best maintained by effective political democracy.

Senator Lucio Malan, deputy whip of Forza Italia, has indicated that he is working on an order of motion for a bill incorporating AJC’s appeal. Malan circulated the Declaration of AJC’s TAI among Italian MPs for their signatures to demand that all of Hezbollah be inserted in the EU list of banned international terrorist organisations.

So far, 252 MPs and lawmakers from 27 different countries have signed.

Hezbollah is currently the single largest agent of instability in the Middle East, and this undermines Italian interests in the area. Starting with the East Mediterranean gas pipeline (EastMed), it is essential that Rome takes an active role in the region to help determine the new geopolitical arrangements.

A step against Hezbollah would be both cynical and moral. Such is foreign policy, a domain of values and interests.

About the Author
Bepi Pezzulli is a Solicitor specialised in International law and a foreign policy adviser covering Israel, the UK and the US. In 2018, he published "The other Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), investigating the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. Currently, he is Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; and a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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