This is a guest post by Stephen Hoffman
When it comes to terror we should all speak with one voice to say it is unacceptable and nothing should be done to give vile groups legitimacy. However, often nothing is done under the misguided belief that the terror group in question will turn into a responsible political actor, or just needs to be talked to in order to moderate its views. This naïve worldview is akin to putting sweets in front of children and not expecting them to be eaten. Unfortunately, when it comes to Hezbollah, the EU is currently living in the world of make believe.
Hezbollah is an active and violent international terrorist group based in Lebanon and funded by the Iranian regime. It has previously been responsible for the deaths of over 80 people in an attack on AMIA Jewish Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina and over the last 20 years has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killed many civilians and also endangered the Lebanese population by firing from civilian areas. It doesn’t appear that those in charge of Hezbollah are in retirement mode either. An investigation by the Bulgarian Government concluded that Hezbollah was responsible for the recent attack in the resort of Burgas in Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver. Considering that Hezbollah was behind this, it shows how it is operating as a violent and active terrorist organisation on European soil and endangering the security of European citizens directly.
Therefore, the EU cannot just bury its head in the sand and ignore it, as it is bringing its terror to the streets of Europe. To put it simply Hezbollah is a renowned antisemitic, homophobic and misogynist organisation that the EU should have no dealings with, or give legitimacy to, by not designating it as a terror group. If the EU does not proscribe Hezbollah as a terror group, it is giving this group credibility it does not deserve and which it will use to plan future attacks across Europe. The situation at present, where the EU does not designate Hezbollah as a terror group, is untenable.
Thankfully the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron recognises this. Last week, David Cameron called on the Jewish community to put pressure on the EU for Hezbollah to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Consequently, The ZF have written to Baroness Ashton, the EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and to David Cameron thanking him for his brave stance. We have also produced a press release and encouraged our activists to write to their MEPs calling on them to support Hezbollah being proscribed across the EU. I know that many other communal Jewish and indeed non-Jewish organisations are doing the same. Rest assured that those in power across the EU will not be able to ignore this tidal wave of opinion on Hezbollah, and if they do decide to ignore them, it will be a sad day for democracy.
Unfortunately, we don’t have 27 David Camerons in Europe or indeed anybody else, with the honourable exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with any Churchillian spirit whatsoever. What we appear to be stuck with is a load of Neville Chamberlains, who believe appeasement in the face of terror is the right way to go. Cheerleader for this group is the French President, Francois Hollande. He is to decisive leadership, what Ann Widdecombe is to Ballroom dancing. Mr Hollande is under the mistaken impression that there is a good part of Hezbollah and a bad part of Hezbollah, believing the political wing of Hezbollah to be good and the military wing of Hezbollah to be bad. He is mistaken. One only has to see statements made by Hezbollah leaders to understand this. For instance, in 2009 Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, stated: ‘Hezbollah has a single leadership. All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership.’ To draw invisible distinctions within Hezbollah is just an excuse by EU leaders to avoid tough action. In doing so they are acting like cowards. One hopes that in next week’s meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, like the lion in the Wizard of Oz, they transform from weakness into bravery.
The person who has the power to make a decision for the whole EU is Baroness Ashton. In her role Baroness Ashton is the voice of foreign affairs for Europe. A clear statement by Baroness Ashton calling for Hezbollah to be proscribed as a terrorist group would put much pressure on all the other European Foreign Ministers to follow suit. This is why we have called on Baroness Ashton to show leadership on this issue. If she does not, she will not be fulfilling her role in making the EU a responsible international actor.
Without an appropriate response, the prospect of further atrocities occurring in the EU is increased. Failing to act is not an option and if the EU does nothing, its credibility already damaged by the collapse of the Eurozone and its lack of democracy, will become a joke. However, if it takes decisive action and proscribes Hezbollah, it will be taking a brave stance in the fight against international terror. Surely you’d rather be remembered for that, then as a joke. Ultimately, the choice is up to EU leaders.