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Time for Germany to outlaw all of Hezbollah

When the leaders of a terrorist organization tell you they don't distinguish between their military wing and their political one, believe them
Lebanese riot police fire tear gas towards supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal groups in Beirut, Lebanon, December 17, 2019. (Bilal Hussein/AP)
Lebanese riot police fire tear gas towards supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal groups in Beirut, Lebanon, December 17, 2019. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

The targeted killing this month of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani brought forth calls for revenge from Iran and its terrorist proxies, including Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Those new threats should be the impetus for the German government to finally outlaw Hezbollah in its entirety.

Like most of the European Union, Germany recognizes only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization, allowing its political supporters to operate in the country unhindered. The partition stems from a desire in Germany to avoid alienating Hezbollah’s powerful politicians in Lebanon’s government. And yet those politicians wave the same flag and answer to the same chain of command as Hezbollah’s terrorist fighters.

Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, has promised revenge for Soleimani’s death. This should raise concern everywhere Hezbollah operates. As head of Iran’s Quds Force, Soleimani was the chief liaison between Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah, as well as Iran’s other terrorist proxies. He directly provided financial and military support to these groups, helping them become dominant powers in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

Germany’s parliament last month called on the government to declare Hezbollah in its entirety a terrorist organization, but the government has thus far rebuffed lawmakers. MP Benjamin Strasser, a key supporter of that parliamentary resolution, said that banning Hezbollah was in Germany’s national interest. Not only is it in Germany’s national interest, but continuing the status quo of recognizing only half the reality of Hezbollah is detrimental to that interest as Germany sends the message that there is bad Hezbollah and good Hezbollah. Promoting this division makes Germany culpable in providing Hezbollah with an operating base in Europe.

Hezbollah has not hesitated in the past to strike on the European continent. It is responsible for the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 traveling from Athens to Rome. It is implicated in the 2012 Bulgaria bus bombing. A Cypriot court in 2013 sentenced a Hezbollah operative to prison for planning attacks on Israeli targets. And supporters continue to wave the terror group’s flags in European capitals during annual demonstrations for Quds Day, the anti-Israel rally instituted by the Iranian regime.

Yet Germany — and indeed much of the EU — has granted Hezbollah’s supporters free reign under the guise of belonging to Hezbollah’s political wing, denying the singular reality of Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s leaders are themselves on record disputing this artificial division of Hezbollah. According to Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem: “We don’t have a military wing and a political one; we don’t have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other… Every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, are in the service of the resistance, and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority.” Qassem’s message is clear: Hezbollah’s politicians and its fighters share the same jihadist ideology and goals. Support for one side is support for the other.

Hezbollah has clearly demonstrated it has no compunction about striking inside Europe. Germany must no longer allow it the opportunity. The misplaced belief that designating the group in its entirety would damage relations with Lebanon provides a protective umbrella for the group’s operations in Germany and throughout the European Union. With the exception of Israel, countries that have designated Hezbollah in its entirety still maintain full diplomatic relations with Lebanon. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands have both recognized Hezbollah for what it is. As a leading power of the European Union, Germany must take this step as well.

Fear of Hezbollah’s political influence should not stop Germany from doing the right thing.

About the Author
Josh Lipowsky is a senior researcher at the Counter Extremism Project.
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