It is not surprising that bad people exist. What is surprising is when we allow them to use us.
Among all of the issues which face our government today, the proscription of a foreign terrorist group may fall some way down many peoples’ list of priorities. But it should not. Our willingness to be weak, indeed our willingness to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, points to a failure which is worth mending not only for the sake of this issue but for others as well.
The terrorist group Hezbollah first came to widespread international attention with its 1983 bombing of the US and French barracks in Beirut. That attack alone killed 58 French peacekeeping soldiers and 241 US Marines. It was one of the earliest blows in a campaign of terror which has already lasted three decades.
Funded and armed by the revolutionary government in Iran, Hezbollah has acted for those thirty years as a proxy-army of Tehran. It has carried out multiple terror attacks. It has killed its political opponents in Lebanon. It has repeatedly engaged in acts of war against Israel. And it is currently being used to kill anti-Assad forces in Syria.
Yet despite the fact that Hezbollah is one of the key destabilising forces in the region – and is paid for by the most destabilising force in the region – the British government and the EU refuse to proscribe Hezbollah’s activities here, including fundraising. Indeed it was the British government who in 2000/2001 invented an entirely new reason for not banning the organisation.
The excuse which Britain – and now the EU – have adopted is that there is a distinction between the ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings of Hezbollah. They pretended the same thing with Hamas until that fiction was admitted to. But both the British government and the EU continue with the pretence in the case of Hezbollah. In reality the political and military wings of Hezbollah are exactly the same thing. The organisation is extraordinarily clearly structured. All decisions come from or go through only two people – Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s Secretary General, and the Supreme Leader in Tehran.
The ‘political’ work which Hezbollah does – intricately dedicated to the annihilation of Israel, the subjugation of Lebanon and other such pursuits of Tehran – is completely indivisible from the work of the organisation’s military wing. To believe the division which the UK and EU believe is to believe that a division exists which neither Iran, Lebanon nor indeed Hezbollah itself sees. Some apologists point to ‘charitable’ work they suppose Hezbollah does. In reality this is propaganda just as surely as was the money which went into the IRA’s coffers ostensibly in order to help Catholic communities in Northern Ireland.
Fortunately the tide is beginning to turn. Unfortunately Britain is still not on the right side of it. Last month the Canadian government expelled all Iranian diplomats and cut off diplomatic relations because of the Iranian government’s support of terrorism. At the same time the Dutch Foreign Minister also called for fellow EU member states to follow the Netherlands in proscribing Tehran’s terror-proxies complete. At the same time William Hague continued to pretend that only the ‘military’ wing of Hezbollah should be banned.
He is joined by the Cypriot Foreign Minister who recently asserted that, as an organization, Hezbollah ‘comprises a political party [and] social services network, as well as an armed wing.’ She further claimed that there was ‘no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on its terrorist list. Should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organization.’
Of course the evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in acts of terrorism is hardly difficult to find. If the Cypriot Foreign Minister and our own Foreign Secretary wish to look for it they could find it by, among other things, speaking to our ally Israel, or our ally America – which banned Hezbollah in total decades ago.
As it is, Britain and the EU are perpetuating a lie. And the thing is that they must know it. It is certainly something that Hezbollah knows. And it is also something which they understand the consequences of. A couple of years ago Hassan Nasrallah said that a proscription of his group’s activities in the EU would ‘destroy’ the organisation. If it happened, he said, ‘[t]he sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed.’
We have an opportunity as well as a duty to make this terrorist leader’s fears come true. How did Britain end up allowing terrorists to operate with impunity? That question is a tough one to answer. How can we stop it being the case? The answer to that question is easy.
Douglas Murray is the Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society and author of 'Neoconservatism: Why We Need It'. You can buy Douglas' books here: http://amzn.to/srlRvY