It’s deplorable that Hezbollah isn’t fully proscribed in the UK

Last week, cross-party MPs came together to urge the Government to proscribe the Hezbollah terror group in an impassioned debate in the House of Commons. 

Currently, the UK only proscribes Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’, separating this from its so-called ‘political wing’.

The organisation’s flag, which features an assault rifle, can be flown freely on the streets of Britain as a result of this indefensible distinction.

Not only does this give legal protection to those celebrating Islamist terrorism, but it is obviously distressing for our Jewish communities and damaging for community cohesion. 

Worryingly, there was no evidence on show in the Home Office Minister’s response to my colleagues and I that this position would be changing any time soon.

Clearly it is deplorable that Hezbollah remains free to operate within the UK after almost four decades of terrorism and vile incitement to violence against Israel, Jews and the West. 

The Iranian-backed organisation is one of the greatest threats to international peace and security.

It has left death and destruction across the world – from Argentina to Thailand – and is now a prominent player in international drug smuggling and money laundering. 

The UK showed great leadership in directing the EU-wide proscription of Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ in 2013. This was an important and welcome step, but it falls short of the full proscription required to constrain the terror group’s ability to operate within the UK, including – critically –  its ability to raise funds. 

It is hard to understand the Government’s reasons for not wanting to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety.

The organisation meets the criteria for full proscription under the Terrorism Act 2000. Such a failure looks like weakness, and it is, frankly, embarrassing. 

Separating Hezbollah into ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings is absurd given the groups’ own senior leaders insistence that its military and non-military activities are inseparable.

Hezbollah’s notorious Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah reportedly said in July 2013: “The story of military wing and political wing is the work of the British”.

The argument that proscribing Hezbollah might somehow destabilise Lebanon and the wider region is feeble.

On the contrary, our continued indulgence of this terrorist organisation destabilises the many moderates in Lebanon who are determined to marginalise the extremists of Hezbollah.

Failure to proscribe has given Hezbollah the green light to not only continue its merciless rampage against Israel’s and Jews worldwide, but also to erode the stability of its host-state Lebanon from within. 

Moreover, the belief espoused by Jeremy Corbyn that retaining political contacts with “friends” in Hezbollah will usher them towards peace and acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, is in equal measure derisory and naïve.

There is no evidence that decades of European or British contact with Hezbollah have in any way moderated the group.

The UK Government should judge Hezbollah by the totality of its actions. Hezbollah’s well-documented criminal, terrorist, and militant activities, including on mainland Europe, must not be absolved simply because it also engages in political or humanitarian ones within Lebanon.

Joining our closest ally America, together with Canada, the Netherlands and the Arab League, in proscribing Hezbollah would send a strong message that the UK Government abhors terrorism in any form. 

The Government’s misguided position on Hezbollah is untenable. Simply, there is no difference between the so-called ‘military wing’ and ‘political wing’ as Hezbollah. The only difference is in UK policy; not in reality. 

It is time for that policy to change. Hezbollah must be proscribed. In full.

About the Author
Zac Goldsmith is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Richmond Park and former candidate to be the Mayor of London
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