In May 2013 I led a debate in the House of Commons calling on the Government to proscribe Hezbollah.
I listed the full Hezbollah charge sheet; that it regards itself as a single, indivisible entity, its illegitimacy as a political party; allegations of involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; attacks in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bangkok, Baku, Tbilisi, Mombasa, New Delhi and Argentina; its contribution to genocide in Syria and more. I also urged the Government to take decisive action to show the UK stood against terrorism in all forms.
In response, Alistair Burt, then foreign office minister, said Britain did not assess that the designation of Hezbollah’s military wing would affect the legitimate political role played by Hezbollah in Lebanon. And there is the problem. You see the UK Government believes that Hezbollah plays a legitimate political role in Lebanon. Now, Lebanese governance is more complicated than the nine circles of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
The overall framework is confessionalism, where high office is reserved for representatives of religious communities and I won’t burden you with a description of the legislative branch.
Hezbollah plays a legitimate political role in Lebanon. Really? What legitimate role does it play in Lebanon when its high command takes orders from Tehran? What legitimate role does its private army play in Lebanon? And what legitimate role did it play when it assassinated the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri?
British foreign policy attempts to spin all the plates at the same time: to keep the door open for future opportunities, whether that be for peace, business, or both. But there comes a time when your moral compass can’t allow unacceptable relationships to continue.
So, I ask the British Government, where is your moral compass? Where is the line between good and evil? When does behaviour become so reprehensible that normal relations cannot continue? I say we passed it some time ago. But there’s one thing worse than lacking the courage to take a tough decision. That’s acting tough and delivering nothing.
Theresa May made a statement outside Downing Street after the London Bridge terror attack. She said: “While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country… so we need to become far more robust in stamping it out.” Just two weeks after that attack, where eight people were killed and 48 were injured, protestors marched in London waving Hezbollah flags.
Hezbollah carries out terror attacks. Sadly, our police officers were unable to robustly identify and stamp out support for extremism that day because they were hamstrung by policy that is out of date and perverse.
One protester had a flag with a Post-It note pinned on it that said:“You cannot arrest me because I support the political wing of Hezbollah, not the military wing… this time.”
Only one thing has changed since 9 May 2013: Hezbollah has killed more people.
On 25 January, a debate will take place in the Commons about the proscription of Hezbollah. The Government can finally accept that the line between practical politics and the battle of good versus evil has been crossed.
It’s time to outlaw Hezbollah.
You can join the IBA campaign at www.israelbritain.org.uk/JN