Hizbullah banned under the guise of anti-Semitism

29th Mar 2019
Hizbullah banned under the guise of anti-Semitism

(Photo Creative Commons)

Why now? MPs from all sides of the House of Commons challenged the Home Secretary when laying an order before Parliament to proscribe Lebanon’s second largest political party under the Terrorism Act 2000. It was a question Sajid Javid was unable to clearly answer, telling MPs that “first, there is secret intelligence.” Even under Privy Council terms, his Labour Shadow Diane Abott is only able to see “some of that information.”

The timing (let alone the decision) appears to be rather puzzling. The British Government under Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, originally proscribed Hizbullah’s [Hezbollah] external security organisation just after the 2000 Act came into force. It was extended in 2008 to include the entire military resistance wing, the Jihad Council, and all units operating under it. It is believed to be the most powerful non-state actor in the world.

Despite intense Israeli lobbying, the political wing of the party has never been banned by the UK, which recognises it as a political entity in Lebanon that has won votes in ‘legitimate elections and forms part of the Lebanese Government.’ Even last year, it was argued against when ministers stated “the best way to weaken Hezbollah in the region and further afield is to have a strong state of Lebanon.

The stronger the state of Lebanon, which represents multi-faith groups, has a democracy and Speakers of Parliament and recognises the individual religious minorities in the country, the weaker Hezbollah will be. It is not in our interests to have a weak, fractured Lebanon.”

Struggling to justify the reason, Javid was left arguing about open source information but from what he said in Parliament he could only list Hizbullah’s involvement in supporting the Government in Syria. Otherwise, he was reduced to relying on propaganda about a suicide bomb attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish community centre back in 1994 and even two years before when there was an attack on the Israeli embassy in that same city. “Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war since 2012 continues to prolong the conflict and the brutal repression of the Syrian people,” he claimed.

With Brexit on the horizon, the UK Government presumably feels no inclination to maintain a common foreign and security policy with the EU. But ironically if London is moving closer to Washington, its entire proscription of Hizbullah goes much further than the US.

Professor of Political Science at the Lebanese University, Amal Saad, said the British ban is “far more draconian” in comparison. “While US Code Title 18, Section 2339A bans material support only, the UK Terrorism Act specifies support need not be financial and imposes a blanket ban on all forms of support,” she tweeted. “Even if we’re talking about any [IHL] transgressions the UK has decided Hizbullah has made, they can try it for war crimes if they like, but that’s not the same thing as terrorism,” she also told Radio 4’s Today show.

UK Foreign Minister, Alistair Burt, was unable to argue that Hizbullah was involved in any terrorist activities in the UK. He told the Today show that there was “increased activity in the UK” giving an example of the annual Al-Quds march in Ramadan as the example, where flags of Hizbullah were displayed.”

BBC journalist Mishal Hussain asked him a rhetorical question about whether the party was banned “on the basis of flags in demonstrations?” to which Burt replied that it was on the “basis of a number of things – the abuse, the intolerance” were the evidence from these marches. This was the justification for the ban and that “it was decided the time was right” for the ban. So this was what the Government considered as “terrorism” by the Hizbullah in the UK!

Being an essentially Shia-led organisation, Hizbullah obviously has no links nor affiliations with Daesh, al-Qa’ida, nor any of its associates. It was founded way back in 1985 as a resistance movement against illegal Israeli occupation and infiltration of Lebanon. Yet in a background of the continuing widening anti-Semitic campaign against the Labour Party, much of the tone of the debate was likewise. Javid was among several MPs accusing Hizbullah of having a “hatred of people who are of the Jewish faith.”

From the onset, Shadow Security Minister, Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds, made it clear that Labour would “not be opposing the motion” but would be scrutinising the Government’s decision behind it.

Yet in concluding, the Home Secretary still could not but help to lower the tone of the debate by make it a party political issue to score points. “Does the Labour party – the official Opposition – support the proscription of Hezbollah? Yes or no? The Shadow Minister wishes not to take that opportunity.

We can only infer that the answer is no, which is a great shame,” he baited his opposite number when summing up.

 

Javid extends proscription of Hezbullah to entire political party

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