Australia/Israel Review


Editorial: Compelling Case for a Ban

Feb 26, 2013 | Colin Rubenstein

Colin Rubenstein

The recent announcement by Bulgarian authorities that two Hezbollah agents – including one Australian national – were being sought in connection with the deadly July 2012 Burgas bombing of a bus filled with Israeli tourists should serve as a wake up call for Australia, EU and the wider global community to list all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

The justification for a ban is so compelling, the evidence so overwhelming, that it shouldn’t be necessary to argue the case for proscribing the group.

Yet the fact remains that some countries, including Australia and the UK, split hairs by proscribing only the “military wing” or, alternatively, the “External Security Organisation” (ESO) of Hezbollah – an illusory distinction which permits other parts of the group to continue its political activities, including recruitment and fundraising.

Hezbollah leaders, such as deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem, have said many times that there are no distinct wings to Hezbollah and anyone who says otherwise does not understand Hezbollah!

Nations making the dubious military/political wing distinction often argue this is necessary in order to maintain political contacts – but what sort of dialogue can one have with this type of organisation?

Even more troubling are other countries, such as France and Germany, which allow Hezbollah’s military and political subsidiaries to operate within their borders with total impunity.

The dangerous Iranian-backed organisation has been responsible for countless acts of terror worldwide over the past decades.

In recent years, it has planned or executed terrorist attacks in Thailand, Kenya, Turkey, India, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Georgia.

Hezbollah has been tied to a long list of atrocities including: the 1983 barracks bombings in Beirut that killed 241 US marines and 58 French paratroopers; bombings in Paris in 1985 and 1986 that killed 13; the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 in Greece; and a 1984 bombing in Spain that killed 18.

Hezbollah was also allegedly responsible for the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, which killed 29 people, as well as the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85.

Plus, an international investigative tribunal determined that Hezbollah operatives were behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut.

More recently, the Shi’ite group has also been sending trained militants, reportedly in the thousands, into Syria to support President Bashar Assad’s army in its ruthless attempt to suppress the rebel uprising, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. Now Syrian rebels are reportedly threatening to target Hezbollah sites in Lebanon in response.

In late January, analysts believe Assad may have attempted to transfer to the group advanced Russian anti-aircraft and land-to-sea missiles which would have made the group by far the most heavily armed terror organisation in the world (see p. 24) if not for the intervention of an Israeli airstrike.

Meanwhile, in Cyprus, admitted Hezbollah courier Hossam Taleb Yaacoub is currently on trial for allegedly surveilling numerous tourists sites likely to be frequented by Israeli visitors, presumably in preparation for future attacks.

Neither Australia, nor our wider region, is immune. The Australian citizen alleged to have been involved in the Burgas bombing – the suspected bombmaker – was reportedly originally recruited in Lebanon to run a Hezbollah cell in this country.

Hezbollah flags appear routinely at Australian demonstrations, and media reports say that law enforcement authorities have been investigating the presence of Hezbollah ESO cells here for some time.

So why won’t many countries, especially in Europe, as well as the EU itself, call a spade a spade and join the US, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and a handful of other countries in outlawing all of Hezbollah, or at least its military wing?

Some say that a number of European governments believe that Hezbollah does not really pose a threat to the general population, but only to Jewish and Israeli targets.

If so, this attitude is despicable and indefensible – it basically licenses terrorism against Jewish targets and individuals, abdicating the states’ responsibility to protect its citizens who happen to be Jewish.

There are also reportedly fears that outlawing the group and cutting off their fundraising lifelines would risk unleashing a wave of indiscriminate and random terror, and thus, it is argued, it is better to simply monitor the group’s activities.

Another factor often mentioned is the implication an EU ban on Hezbollah would have on relations with Lebanon, a significant strategic and economic interest for many European nations – particularly France. It is sometimes even bizarrely claimed that Hezbollah is important to Lebanon’s “stability.”

However, in 2006, Hezbollah dragged Lebanon into a war with Israel neither country wanted. In 2008, Hezbollah took over downtown Beirut by force, killing other Lebanese in the process. And today it is dragging Lebanon into the Syrian civil war. This is the “stability” Hezbollah brings to Lebanon.

Rationalisations such as these for the dangerous policy of appeasement and accommodation towards Hezbollah displayed by certain countries must be rejected.

What is required in Australia, Europe and elsewhere is a courageous, principled, zero tolerance policy against all groups engaged in terror activities, including all their branches and subsidiaries.

The status quo is unacceptable, unsustainable, and kowtows to Hezbollah’s sponsors in Iran – a stance that may send a dangerous message regarding the resolve of Europe to confront Teheran on its nuclear weapons program as well.

Perhaps the best argument for banning Hezbollah has been made by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah himself, who has commented that an EU ban “would dry up the sources of finance, end moral, political and material support” and “pressure states which protect [Hezbollah].”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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