Banning Hezbollah in its entirety debated in UK Parliament
Feb 1, 2018 | Sharyn Mittelman
On January 25, members of the UK Parliament supported a non-binding resolution in the House of Commons to proscribe all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation under UK terrorism legislation. Currently, in the UK only the military wing is defined as a terrorist organisation. The resolution stated:
“This House believes that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation driven by an antisemitic ideology that seeks the destruction of Israel; notes that Hezbollah declares itself to be one organisation without distinguishable political or military wings; is concerned that the military wing of that organisation is proscribed, but its political wing is not; and calls on the Government to include Hezbollah in its entirety on the list of proscribed organisations.”
Both UK Labour and Conservative backbenchers spoke in favour of a full ban on Hezbollah, however, both the Government front-bench and Opposition front-bench remained in favour of retaining a partial ban on Hezbollah’s military wing, rejecting a full ban that includes its political wing. As a result, it is unlikely to change any time soon.
Similarly in Australia, since 2003 only Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation is proscribed as a terrorist organisation, despite Hezbollah leaders themselves admitting that it operates as one organisation – and that distinctions between its political and military wing are artificial. AIJAC has previously advocated that all of Hezbollah should be banned in Australia, in submissions to Government, and in articles – see here and here.
Generally, the main argument made against proscribing all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation has been that it could undermine diplomatic relations with Lebanon, given that the Lebanese government includes members of Hezbollah. However, as noted in the debate in the UK Parliament, this has not affected diplomatic relations between Lebanon and countries where all of Hezbollah is proscribed such as in Canada, the Netherlands and the USA. Moreover, as some British parliamentarians pointed out, not proscribing all of Hezbollah enables an internationally recognised terrorist organisation to continue to raise funds from within the UK towards its so called “political wing”, as well as potentially undermining local counter-terrorism efforts.
The debate is even more crucial with Hezbollah supporting the brutal Assad regime in Syria where over 500,000 people have been killed and millions displaced, new US sanctions on Hezbollah, as well as with the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s recent comments condemning Iran and in particular Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon. The Lebanese PM even fears being assassinated, like his father former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who is believed to have been killed by Hezbollah.
Highlights from the UK parliamentary debate, which also raises important considerations for Australia’s position on Hezbollah, are outlined below.
UK Labour MP Joan Ryan (Enfield North) proposed the motion and said:
Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation, driven by anti-Semitic ideology, which seeks the destruction of Israel. It has wreaked death and destruction throughout the Middle East, aiding and abetting the Assad regime’s butchery in Syria and helping to drive Iran’s expansionism throughout the region. It makes no distinction between its political and military wings, and nor should the British Government. In 2010, the Obama Administration labelled Hezbollah ”the most technically capable terrorist group in the world”. Over the past three decades, it has been implicated in a string of deadly attacks against Israeli, Jewish and western targets in the middle east and far beyond. Its operatives have been arrested for plotting or carrying out attacks across the globe, in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. The litany of death and violence widely attributed to Hezbollah includes the 1983 murder in Beirut of 241 American and 58 French peacekeepers; the 1986 wave of bombings against Jewish communal targets in Paris, in which 13 people died; the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people died; the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Jewish mutual association, which led to the deaths of 85 people; the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in which 19 US servicemen lost their lives and nearly 500 people were injured; and the 2012 attack on a bus of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas, in which six people were murdered and for which two people finally went on trial last week. Such terrorist acts are promoted, glorified and encouraged by the Hezbollah leadership. Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, has, for instance, praised suicide bombings-or “martyrdom operations”, as he prefers to describe them-as “legitimate, honourable, legal, humanitarian and ethical actions” saying that “those who love death” will triumph over those who fear it.
… Hezbollah’s actions are driven by a deep-seated, intractable and vicious hatred of Jews. The House does not need to take my word for it; Hezbollah’s leaders have proudly boasted of their anti-Semitism: ”If they all gather in Israel,” declared Nasrallah, “it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Nor is Nasrallah a lone voice. Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, has said that ”the history of Jews has proven that, regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are people who are evil in their ideas”.
… Hezbollah has killed probably more Muslims than anybody else, as well as Christians, Jews and others. Hezbollah’s leaders and its media peddle classic anti-Semitic tropes and lies. They refer to Jews in the basest of terms, labelling them “apes and pigs”, and suggesting that ”you will find no one more miserly or greedy than they are”. Hezbollah’s leaders and media make spurious claims about Jewish conspiracies and world domination, and they deny the Holocaust, suggesting that “the Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities.” Hezbollah’s hatred of Jews is a noxious mix, which, in the words of one writer, fuses Arab nationalist-based anti-Zionism, anti-Jewish rhetoric from the Koran, and, most disturbingly, the antique anti-Semitic beliefs and conspiracy theories of European fascism”.
… Hezbollah is a menace throughout the middle east, but Israel is its principal target. That is no secret. In its founding manifesto in 1985, in which it also pledged its loyalty to Ayatollah Khomeini and urged the establishment of an Islamic regime, Hezbollah says of Israel: ”Our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated… We recognise no treaty with it, no cease-fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.” This is no mere rhetorical sabre-rattling; Hezbollah vehemently opposed the Oslo peace process and has fought any normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab countries. On numerous occasions-most notably in 1993, 1996 and 2006-it has sought to provoke conflict with Israel, and the consequences have been disastrous and devastating for the peoples of both Israel and Lebanon. …
As the House will be aware, the British Government have long held the view that Hezbollah’s military wing is involved in conducting and supporting terrorism. In 2001, the Hezbollah External Security Organisation was added to the list of proscribed organisations. In 2008, this proscription was extended by a reference to the “military wing of Hezbollah, including the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it (including the Hezbollah External Security Organisation).” Hezbollah’s political wing, however, is not proscribed, even though this distinction is not one that Hezbollah itself has ever recognised. …
In fact, it has consistently and explicitly refuted it. In 1985, its founding document stated clearly: ”As to our military power, nobody can imagine its dimensions because we do not have a military agency separate from the other parts of our body. Each of us is a combat soldier when the call of jihad demands it.” It could not be clearer. In 2009, Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy general secretary, made it clear that ”the same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel”. It could not be clearer. He repeated this message three years later, declaring: ”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.” Those are Hezbollah’s own words. Also in 2013, Nasrallah himself ruled out any notion that the military and political wings were somehow different: ”However, jokingly I will say-though I disagree on such separation or division-that I suggest that our ministers in the upcoming Lebanese government be from the military wing of Hezbollah.” He also mocked our Government’s division between the two, saying ”the story of military wing and political wing is the work of the British”.
That is what he said. It is a distinction that, with good reason, many other countries throughout the world do not recognise. Those that do not include the Netherlands, Canada, the US, the Arab League and the Gulf Co-operation Council.
… Those Governments that do proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety do talk to the Lebanese Government. If Hezbollah wishes to change its views on Israel-to not obliterate it-and to signal that it will give up its arms, I am sure that, whether it is proscribed or not, that would be the right road to take if it wished to take part in any peace negotiations, which it clearly does not.
Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con):
Hezbollah is a single operation, and that has been stated by its leadership on numerous occasions. For example, its deputy leader, Naim Qassem, has said that Hezbollah has ”one leadership and one administration”.
Hezbollah’s political leaders have a long history of personal involvement in the group’s terrorist and criminal activities. For example, its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, is believed to have taken part in hostage taking, plane hijacking and violent attacks on rivals. Hezbollah presents a clear danger to the security of our country. The decision to proscribe parts of the organisation was prompted by the 2012 attack on a bus of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria but, as we have heard his afternoon, the list of its crimes and atrocities is long and includes the notorious truck bomb in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and injured many others. It was the deadliest terrorist outrage in Argentina’s history. Just a few years ago, when a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus was found guilty of planning to attack Israelis, he said he was ”collecting information about the Jews” and that that was what his organisation was doing everywhere in the world. We should be under no illusion: Hezbollah poses a serious threat to the citizens of this country and to our neighbours across Europe, and we should proscribe it in all its forms. In taking that step, the Government would have considerable support both from this House and from the public. Yesterday, the Jewish News published details of a wide-ranging ComRes representative poll that it commissioned. Of some 2,000 people questioned, 44% would support the political wing being designated a terrorist group, compared with just 10% who were opposed…
By limiting proscription to the so-called military wing, we are undermining the ability of the police to protect us from the danger posed by this group. The fact that some parts of Hezbollah are not proscribed limits the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize funds using asset freezing and forfeiture powers. Classifying the whole organisation as a terrorist group would significantly constrain its ability to raise funds and would stop it using UK banks to transfer money around the world. I emphasise that terrorism is not the only type of unlawful activity in which Hezbollah is involved. Just a few weeks ago, the French authorities referred a 15-member Hezbollah cell to a criminal court on money laundering charges.
In October 2015, the US and French authorities arrested two individuals from Hezbollah, one in Atlanta and one in Paris, who were caught laundering drugs proceeds and seeking to purchase weapons and cocaine. According to court documents, they used “Hezbollah-connected associates” to provide security for narcotics shipments. One of those associates was located in the UK and apparently laundered £30,000 for a US Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agent who was posing as a narcotics trafficker. The partial proscription of Hezbollah has not deterred the group from engaging in criminal conduct on British soil…
It is time we followed the lead set by countries such as the USA, Canada and the Netherlands, which have implemented full proscription.
Hezbollah has been carrying out murderous attacks in countries across the world for more than 30 years. The organisation is heavily implicated in crime and money laundering, as well as being a deeply malevolent presence in the Syrian war. It is a violent, anti-Semitic organisation, and its main ambition is the complete destruction of the state of Israel. We should ban it, all of it, now.
Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab):
… It is not interested in the compromises that all sides will need to make to bring about a two-state solution. Its sole interest is the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah has made that absolutely clear. It declared in 1992 that the war is on ”until Israel ceases to exist and the last Jew in the world has been eliminated. Israel is completely evil and must be erased from the face of the Earth.” That is why, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah’s response was not peace but the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and an avalanche of rocket attacks just six years later. It is why, today, Hezbollah, thanks to its Iranian paymasters, threatens Israel by pointing 120,000 to 140,000 rockets at the country. In October, Hassan Nasrallah, in just one of the Hezbollah leader’s many threats, urged Jews to flee Israel before it is devastated by war. Last February, he warned that there would be “no red lines” in any future conflict between the terror group and Israel. In April, he boasted of his organisation’s preparedness for war, and in June he spoke of the “hundreds of thousands” of Shi’a fighters from across the Middle East who would rush to Hezbollah’s side when it next takes the fight to the Jewish state.
… Analysts warn that the next conflict between Israel and Hezbollah ”will likely be the most destructive Arab-Israel war yet.” Israel’s military believes that, in a future conflict, Hezbollah will be able to launch 1,500 rockets and missiles a day. Israel has increased its defensive capabilities, but Hezbollah is likely to target military facilities, important infrastructure and civilian population centres. In the past, Nasrallah has threatened that Hezbollah will attack an ammonia storage facility in Haifa and a nuclear reactor at Dimona…
I have criticised the Government for not proscribing Hezbollah, but I also wish to address some remarks to my party. In 2009, at a meeting of the so-called Stop the War Coalition, which must be the worst or most inappropriately named organisation in British politics, the leader of the Labour party said that he had invited “friends” from Hamas and Hezbollah to an event in Parliament. Later, when asked why he had called them friends, he said: “I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk.” He also said: ”There is not going to be a peace process unless there is talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas”.
First, who would describe a racist, fascistic and terrorist organisation like Hezbollah as friends? Social democrats-indeed, all democrats-should always be crystal clear about how they describe totalitarian movements and Governments, whether that is Hezbollah or, for instance, the Iranian dictatorship that backs Hezbollah.
Secondly, the statements by the leaders of Hezbollah make it very clear that they have absolutely no interest in the negotiations and compromises that could lead to peace. The idea that Hezbollah is a partner for peace is utterly misguided. Its contribution to the Oslo peace process was to threaten to murder Jewish tourists and businessmen visiting Arab countries that normalised their relations with Israel….
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is enormously difficult and complex. There are no easy answers. If there were, they would have been found by now. However, some elements are clearer than others, and the case of Hezbollah is one of them. This is an anti-Semitic, racist terror group-acting at the behest of Iran-which wishes to drive Jews from the Middle East and murder Jews around the world. Hezbollah is part of the problem; it will never be part of the solution. That is why this House and our Government should agree today to proscribe it in its entirety.
David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con):
There is no doubt that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. Indeed, it is one of the largest, most powerful, most vicious and most dangerous terrorist organisations in the world. Although it is, ostensibly, a political party, and one of the key political players in Lebanon, it also overtly and rigidly adheres to the Shi’ite revolutionary agenda of Iran. Its emergence in 1982 in the wake of the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon was directly attributable to the intervention of Iran. The influence of Iran was made clear in Hezbollah’s manifesto, dated 1985, which stated: “We are the sons of the umma-the party of God, the vanguard of which was made victorious by God in Iran.” Hezbollah, in truth, is an Iranian proxy, closely associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and, like Iran, it considers the United States and Israel its principal enemies….
Quite understandably and properly, Hezbollah’s activities have led to it being designated a terrorist organisation in many parts of the world. In 1996, Israel listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, followed by the United States in 1997. It has also been proscribed by Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France and Bahrain. In March 2016, the Gulf Co-operation Council designated it a terrorist organisation, stressing its status as a proxy for Iran in regional conflicts, including with the Houthi rebellion in Yemen.
The secretary general of the GCC, Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, commented: ”The GCC states consider Hezbollah militias’ practices in the Council’s states and their terrorist and subversive acts being carried out in Syria, Yemen and Iraq contradict moral and humanitarian values and principles and international law and pose a threat to Arab national security.” Very recently, in November last year, most of the Arab League’s 22 members condemned Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, stating that it was supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East by supplying them with weapons, including ballistic missiles.
The United Kingdom’s position on Hezbollah has been somewhat more nuanced. In 2001, the UK proscribed Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000. That proscription was extended to the military wing, including the Jihad Council, in 2008 as a consequence of Hezbollah’s targeting of British soldiers in Iraq. The UK was also instrumental in persuading the European Union to designate the military wing a terrorist entity in 2013. However, the British Government have consistently been reluctant to extend the proscription to the entirety of Hezbollah.
In an explanatory memorandum to the European Scrutiny Committee in August 2013, the then Minister for Europe, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), stated that although the UK does not engage with Hezbollah’s political wing, some EU member states do engage with it as a political party in Lebanon and therefore had concerns over the effect of EU designation on that engagement. He explained that by differentiating between Hezbollah’s political and military wings, the designation would not prevent those member states that have contacts with Hezbollah’s political representatives from maintaining such contact.
The Minister stated in the same memorandum that the military wing of Hezbollah was separate from the political wing, which included Ministers, Members of Parliament and other representatives, and was overseen by a political council. I suggest that such a distinction is completely illusory. The fact is that Hezbollah itself denies that there is any distinction to be drawn between its military and political wings.
… in 2000 its deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, declared: “Hezbollah’s Secretary-General is the head of the Shura Council and also the head of the Jihad Council, and this means that we have one leadership with one administration.” In 2012, Qassem said: ”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, is in the service of the resistance and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority.” So Hezbollah is, in reality, a single entity, and it is ludicrous to suggest that it is not. As a single entity, Hezbollah is a threat to the entire world….
The Government have contended that banning the organisation in its totality might destabilise the political order in Lebanon. I would suggest, however, that the greatest destabilising influence in Lebanon is Hezbollah itself. Even as we debate today, four Hezbollah members are being tried before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in connection with the murder of the late Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah forces have supported the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The organisation continues to conduct terrorist attacks against Israeli interests. While I understand the Government’s concerns and anxieties, I suggest that partial proscription has not had the effect either of curbing Hezbollah’s terrorist activities or of clearing Hezbollah from the United Kingdom. Hezbollah is on our streets, defiantly waving its flags and thumbing its nose at the British Government. I consequently urge the Government to reconsider their stance and to conclude that Hezbollah-a dangerous, aggressive terrorist organisation that is a threat to regional stability and to the security of this country-should be proscribed in its entirety.
Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op):
…Hezbollah specifically promotes anti-Semitism. Al-Manar, Hezbollah TV, was the first media outlet to make the false claim that 4,000 Jews or Israelis did not go to work in the World Trade Centre on 9/11, allegedly on the basis of advice from Mossad. This lie has now become a widespread anti-Semitic libel. Hezbollah’s message incites violence. Esther Webman, who has studied Hezbollah’s anti-Semitic motifs, has concluded that Hezbollah’s brand of anti-Semitism is typical of contemporary violent Islamist groups. She describes it as “combining traditional Islamic perceptions with Western anti-Semitic terminology and motifs to express its opposition to Zionism. Zionism, in turn, is equated not only with the State of Israel but also with imperialism and with Western arrogance.” This issue has very serious implications for us in the UK. At the annual al-Quds march in London last June, Hezbollah’s green and yellow flag – the same flag displayed in military operations -was put on show. The purpose of the march and of al-Quds day itself is to agitate for violent resistance and the destruction of the state of Israel. At the centre of the flag, the largest Arabic word in green reads “Hezbollah”, out of which emerges a globe with an upraised arm grasping an assault rifle. The letter A of Allah is linked to the upraised arm grasping the assault rifle, signifying the ideological legitimisation of Hezbollah’s armed resistance as being divinely sanctioned. That message is clear, menacing and extremely powerful. The menacing chants at the march on the streets of London this year included the heinous cry: “Zionists/ISIS are the same. Only difference is the name.”
Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park – Con):
It is also worth pointing out that the march was led by the director of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, who, during his speech, blamed the Grenfell Tower tragedy on the Zionists. As we all know, the word “Zionists” is a euphemism for Jews. The whole enterprise was just entirely bonkers, as well as being anti-Semitic.
Mrs Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op):
All this is inciting violence, hatred and division on the streets of the UK. This is happening as anti-Semitic offences in this country reach record levels, as shown in the recent Community Security Trust report. There are many other disturbing recent examples of incitement to hatred, and I will now mention the important point raised by the hon. Gentleman. Tahra Ahmed, a volunteer running a network helping the survivors of the Grenfell fire tragedy has claimed that the 71 people who perished were “burnt…in a Jewish sacrifice”. That is horrendous-horrendous incitement to hatred. On the march at that al-Quds event, some marchers held flags with small stickers attached to them stating: “I support the political wing of Hezbollah”. This was designed to give the marchers protection against any legal challenge-pretending that the political wing of Hezbollah is somehow a separate entity. This is a farce. The flags indicate military might, and their display incites hatred on our streets and division in our communities. I recently went to see the Metropolitan police to express my great concern about expressions of hatred on our streets, specifically in relation to the al-Quds march, but also in relation to other recent events. I asked the police why they were not taking any action against this incitement to hatred. It was clear from the discussions that ensued that a key factor in the police’s failure to act was that Hezbollah’s political wing is not illegal, and neither is displaying the flag.
Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con):
I apologise for ducking out of the debate earlier. I wanted to sign the book commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day, and I recommend that other Members take the opportunity to do so before it closes in about half an hour. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) on securing this debate. Hezbollah claims to be the party of God, but it is simply a genocidal, anti-Semitic terror group based in Lebanon that seeks the destruction of Israel and the extermination of all Jews worldwide. The organisation is well known, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) reminded us of the terror attack that took place in 1994, with the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. The hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) reminded us of the comment by the leader of the Labour party who infamously described Hezbollah as his “friends”. Well, they are no friends of mine. Hezbollah is a creation of Iran. It is one of Iran’s most important and powerful international terrorist proxies, and it gives it extensive access to the Arab world. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of pounds for Hezbollah’s weapons and technology, and salaries for tens of thousands of fighters. In June 2006, Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed that he was ”open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Before leaving office in December 2016, former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, reportedly had concerns about Nasrallah’s remarks and stated that Iran’s supply of weapons to Hezbollah violates a long-standing arms embargo against the country. ..
As the hon. Member for Dudley North reminded us, the terror group now has up to 150,000 rockets capable of striking the whole of Israel. Last week, I presented a petition to the House on behalf of 896 people in my constituency who are calling on the Government to proscribe the political, as well as the military, arm of the Hezbollah organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000. The Government currently distinguish between Hezbollah’s so-called political wing, and its military wing, even though the group itself does not. I have attended the al-Quds march on many occasions, and most recently I went last year with former MP Michael McCann, who spoke at the event. We witnessed the yellow flags of Hezbollah, which feature a large green assault rifle, being waved with impunity on our streets. Despite the countless representations made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), the Metropolitan police and Ministers have failed to take any action.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission, which organises the march, has provided guidance on its website for participants, advising that although flags of illegal organisations could not be waved at the event, demonstrators could bring a Hezbollah flag to show support for its political wing. I take some credit for that being on the website because two years ago I called on the Met to ban the march. I received abuse, but also correspondence from the so-called Islamic Human Rights Commission, which told me that it had never had any illegal flags – it was, of course, referring to those of Daesh, not Hezbollah. Subsequently, it has advised people that they should put a post-it note on their flags to say that they are supporting Hezbollah’s political wing, not its military wing. The Home Secretary has recently explained the position on offences in respect of displaying flags: “For an offence to be committed, the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed military wing of the group.” Taking that into account, flags flown at the march featured the disclaimers that I have mentioned, even though we have been reminded that the organisation itself does not recognise any difference between the two wings.
According to Home Office guidance, “Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation if she believes it is concerned in terrorism, and it is proportionate to do. For the purposes of the Act, this means that the organisation: commits or participates in acts of terrorism; prepares for terrorism; promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism); or is otherwise concerned in terrorism”. It is worth reiterating that senior Hezbollah officials have openly and repeatedly stated that no substantive separation exists between so-called “political” and “military” wings. Given that fact, I believe that Hezbollah meets the criteria for full proscription under the Terrorism Act. It is not just the Jewish community in this country who are distressed by Hezbollah’s overt presence in the UK; it also distresses those of us who deplore terrorism and hate all kinds of bigotry and those of us who want this country to be a welcoming and safe place for our many diverse communities. A number of Members are unable to be here today because they have returned to their constituencies. No doubt they will be attending this weekend’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations. However, we must not underestimate the strength of feeling among the British public in favour of rooting out anti-Semitism and hatred wherever it occurs. Anti-Semitism is rising throughout Europe, and as we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday, we must be the ones to say, “Enough is enough.” It is in the best interests of us all to proscribe Hezbollah in full.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP):
On 4 June 2017, the day after the London bridge terror attack in which eight people were killed and 48 injured, the Prime Minister-my Prime Minister, everyone’s Prime Minister-stood in Downing Street and 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 identifying it and stamping it out-across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations, but the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism”. On 22 June, the hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), following a statement on terrorism, called on the Home Secretary to ban Hezbollah. To support his request he gave a first-hand account of what he cited as a celebration of the terror group Hezbollah that he witnessed on 18 June at an Al-Quds rally in central London. He explained in some detail how people were walking down the streets of this city waving the flag of the genocidal terror group Hezbollah-that is what it is-while simultaneously mocking the British laws that allowed them to do so. He described how frustrating that was. There can surely be no greater and more blatant illustration of the Prime Minister’s view that we are far too tolerant of extremists. That shows why this debate is important. It is also important to remember the context. In 2017, a year marred by terror attacks in Manchester and London, our Government allowed that march to take place. I question why that was allowed. In response to the hon. Member for Newark, the Home Secretary agreed to come back and discuss the matter with him and if necessary to come back to this House. I understand that there has been a chasm of silence since then, which concerns me.
… Let me make it clear that this is not a campaign to satisfy a handful of MPs; it goes much wider than that. In a campaign organised by the Israel Britain Alliance and its numerous partners, more than 10,000 people have written to their MPs to register their concerns about the Government’s delusion that Hezbollah is two separate organisations and to highlight the Government’s dereliction of their first duty to protect the public. For the record, the publicly available evidence that Hezbollah is a single organisation with a single command structure has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt. In addition, the Government’s own assessment of Hezbollah’s capability renders their stance untenable and demands the protection that the evidence points to…The UK proscribed Hizballah’s External Security Organisation in March 2001 and in 2008 the proscription was extended to Hizballah’s military apparatus.” My concern is that, by dragging our feet over taking the necessary action, we are placing the British people in grave danger. It is our responsibility to look after them.
Colonel Richard Kemp, to whom I referred a moment ago, is the former head of the international terrorism team at the Cabinet Office. I hope that we can all respect the fact that his credentials are impeccable as he explains his view of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s position. He says: “The Foreign Office deludes itself that by appeasing Hezbollah it can influence the organisation. And that it will do its killing elsewhere. Instead this gives legitimacy to Hezbollah. Piling appeasement on appeasement, Britain and the rest of the EU hope to mollify Iran, the biggest state supporter of terrorism. They know designating Hezbollah would enrage the ayatollahs.”
… The Foreign Office position appears to be creating two delusions: first, that Hezbollah is not a single organisation and, secondly, that it will do its killing elsewhere. Colonel Richard Kemp’s column in The Times devastates another Foreign Office fable, namely, that we are not in danger. He says: “During the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hezbollah was involved in Iranian-directed bombings that killed well over 1,000 British and US servicemen. Despite this, in Britain and elsewhere in Europe Hezbollah can freely raise funds for terrorism. Its supporters flaunt their assault rifle-emblazoned flags on our streets. They maintain sleeper cells in this country: planning, preparing and lying in wait for orders to attack.” I commend our security forces for their good work, which everyone in this House endorses and supports. Our intelligence services are the best in the world and we are very happy to have them. When we hear such things, we say to ourselves, “What damning testimony there is.” I see you looking at me, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am coming to the end of my speech. Those in the Foreign Office who seek to appease, and who are fearful of offending the ayatollahs, are allowing people on our streets to celebrate an organisation that has been complicit in the killing of British soldiers. We have a responsibility to look after, nurture and care for our soldiers and their families, and the situation cannot be allowed to continue.
It is past time that the Government did the right thing and banned Hezbollah. Members may ask what that will achieve. Let me quote Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, on that question: ”The sources of our funding would dry up, and the sources of moral, political, and material support would be destroyed.” If we are looking for a good reason to proscribe Hezbollah, that has to be one.
Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
… For the Netherlands, as we have heard, it did matter and was conclusive. In its annual report in 2004, its general intelligence and security services stated: ”It can also be concluded that Hezbollah’s political and terrorist wings are controlled by one co-ordinating council. This means that there is indeed a link between these parts of the organisation. The Netherlands has changed its policy and no longer makes a distinction between the political and terrorist Hezbollah branches.” In fairness, not all countries take that approach. It is not, for example, the approach taken in Australia, where what it refers to as the External Security Organisation of Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist organisation but not Hezbollah as a whole. In the statement explaining their decision, the Australian Government do not seek to argue that they are very distinct organisations. They describe on one hand a “pragmatic political organisation with deep roots in Lebanese society” that ”maintain a social welfare network that encompasses education and health services”, but at the same time include what they describe as “a branch”-the ESO-responsible for ”the planning, coordination and execution of terrorist attacks against Hizballah’s enemies outside of Lebanon”. Despite the fact that the Australian Government take the view that the ESO is a branch of a bigger organisation, they simply chose to proscribe the branch rather than the whole organisation. So different Governments can come to different views.
As some have alluded to, one wonders whether there are other considerations at play here, including a desire to keep certain diplomatic channels open and concerns about maintaining stability in Lebanon. In the past, the President of Lebanon has asked the EU and its member countries not to proscribe Hezbollah, describing it as an essential component of Lebanese society. However, in response, the right hon. Member for Enfield North fairly points out that countries that do proscribe the whole group continue to play a diplomatic role in the country-things do not have to end there.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
I am reminded of the analogy of the Siamese twins. The two twins are the Hezbollah of politics and the Hezbollah of armed insurrection and guerrilla warfare. The blood that flows through one flows through the other. We are suggesting to the Minister, very gently – perhaps very forcefully – that we need Hezbollah to be proscribed because by doing so we will take away their money and resources and their moral and political livelihood. If we do that, we can stop the killing. That has to be the way forward.