Britons are four times more likely to support the proscription of Hezbollah’s political wing as to oppose it.
The views of the country are laid bare for the first time today in an exclusive ComRes poll for the Jewish News, as MPs prepare to debate whether the government’s ban should extend beyond the military wing.
In a representative poll of 2,038 adults, forty-four percent said they would support or strongly support the political wing being designated a terrorist group, compared with just 10 percent who were opposed. With forty-six percent answering ‘don’t know’, it means a staggering 81 percent of those expressing a view backed its designation as a terrorist organisation.
Young people are most likely to oppose, with 23 percent of 18-34-year-old who express a view opposing the proposal compared to 17 percent of over 55s.
Among Jewish respondents, 91 percent were in support, with nine percent who ‘don’t know’. Muslims were more than twice as likely to support an extension of the designation as be opposed to it.
The results are likely to pile pressure on the government to finally take action against Hezbollah, which is already banned in full by America, Canada and the Arab League, and has been linked to murderous attacks against Israelis and around the world including the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires which claimed 85 lives.
Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP, who secured today’s House of Commons debate, welcomed the “solid support” shown in the poll and pointed to repeated statements from senior Hezbollah figures rubbishing the suggestion of the two wings being separate entities.
She will tell MPs: “After the terrible terrorist attack at London Bridge, the prime minister said ‘there is to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country’. I agree. But for so long as her government does nor proscribe the so-called political wing of Hezbollah – an organisation driven by hatred of Jews which promotes and encourages terrorism and calls for the destruction of the Middle East’s only democracy – that tolerance will continue.”
Former Conservative cabinet minister Theresa Villiers echoed her calls. “It is artificial to distinguish the activities of the two elements of this highly militant extremist organisation,” she said. “I would urge the Government to listen to the views expressed in this poll and ban the political side Hezbollah.”
Sadiq Khan last summer joined long-standing communal calls for the group to be fully banned after Hezbollah flags were again openly paraded through the streets of London during the annual al-Quds Day event.
On that occasion, organisers pinned disclaimers to the rifle-laden flags stressing support for the political wing, exposing the loophole in the law that currently enables the flags to fly. Under the current law, police would have to be clear that the “context and manner” in which the flag was displayed constituted specific support for the armed wing.
The Community Security Trust, Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies and Israel Britain Alliance are among those to call for the home secretary to ensure there isn’t a repeat of those scenes. Jewish News and the Zionist Federation have also launched a campaign calling for change. Paul Charney, chair of the ZF, said: “It is time for the UK Home Secretary to take the lead and proscribe Hezbollah in full and listen to the will of the people.”
Rudd has previously pledged to consider calls for a ban but refused to offer a running commentary on the issue in a letter to the London mayor.
ComRes chair Andrew Hawkins said: “There seems no reason to suppose that, if the 46 percent who failed to express a view were better informed, their views would fall out any differently from those who expressed it.
“This poll shows that extending Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organisation would be a low risk political move, and may perhaps put pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to follow suit or condemn such a decision.”