Government WILL ban Hezbollah in its entirety

Government WILL ban Hezbollah in its entirety

A parliamentary motion on terrorism will end the legal distinction between military and political wings.

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Hezbollah flags draped over teenagers at the Al Quds Day march
Hezbollah flags draped over teenagers at the Al Quds Day march

The government has announced today it will ban Hezbollah in its entirety, adding the Shi’ite group to a list of terrorist organisations.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Hezballah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party.

“Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”

The announcement is a victory for Jewish News’ campaign to ban the terror group in its entirety.

The military wing of Hezbollah is already proscribed but the law currently draws a distinction between it and the political wing, despite the fact that leaders of the terror group have long suggested they are one in the same thing.

A draft order, subject to Parliament’s approval, will impose a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment to members or anyone inviting support for Hizballah, Ansaroul Islam and JNIM.

Hezbollah has only one flag and the legal loophole has enabled it to fly unhindered through the streets of London at the annual al Quds parade and other demonstrations against Israel.

Despite it featuring a rifle, police have until now only been able to crack down if they believed there was evidence of support for the banned military wing. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly lobbied for full proscription after a disclaimer stressing support for the political wing alone was pinned to flags during the march in 2017.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I have been clear that antisemitism and hate crime has no place whatsoever in our city or in our society.

“I wrote to both the previous Home Secretary Amber Rudd and current Home Secretary Sajid Javid to raise my deep concerns about the support shown for Hezbollah at the annual Al Quds march in London.

“The fact the Home Secretary has finally listened to our concerns and is taking action is welcome. Banning the political wing is long overdue. It has been exploited as a vehicle for extremist views for far too long, as well as limiting what the police are able to do to crack down on it.”

Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “The government’s decision to finally proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety is a huge victory for LFI’s long-running campaign against this antisemitic terror group.

“With cross-party support, our MPs have led this fight in parliament over many years.

“This change of heart by the government is the right decision and sends a clear message that there will be no hiding place in Britain for antisemites who seek Israel’s destruction.”

Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism Gideon Falter said: “We are delighted that our efforts, and those of our friends and allies, have finally borne fruit.

“Hezballah supporters will no longer be able to intimidate British Jews with relative impunity as they have done for years, knowing that they enjoy the friendship of figures like Jeremy Corbyn who even called for the total lifting of restrictions on Hezballah in this country.

“Successive Governments of all political affiliations have shamed themselves by resisting calls for them to act, with progress only coming now due to the growing national recognition that antisemitism has flourished in Britain to the extent that our country’s Jewish minority is now fearful for its very future.

“We salute the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary for being the first holders of their offices to finally right this wrong and close this loophole. Today it became harder for the supporters of genocidal antisemitic terrorism to operate in the United Kingdom.”

In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Community Security Trust, said: “We welcome the Home Secretary’s move to proscribe Hizballah in full.

“The Jewish community, including our organisations and leading community newspapers, have long led the call for this ban.

“The previously held false distinction, between the ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings, was denied by even the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, who said that, “The story of military wing and political wing is the work of the British.

“This has led to a situation where Hizballah supporters were free to parade the flags of this antisemitic terrorist organisation on the streets of London. following today’s announcement, we call on all of the relevant authorities to ensure that this will no longer be tolerated.”

Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, said: “We are delighted that the absurd anomaly is being scrapped whereby a false distinction was drawn by the UK between Hezbollah’s murderous terrorists and the political leaders controlling them.

“Hezbollah have carried out numerous terror attacks against Jews and Israelis around the world. They are responsible for the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq and they have played a key role in the horrors of the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah’s arsenal of missiles in Southern Lebanon is a serious threat to peace and security in Israel and Lebanon.

“This complete ban was long overdue – we have campaigned for it repeatedly. Grassroots activists deserve credit for years of hard work raising this issue with their MPs and the Government to achieve this.

“We urge all MPs to support the draft order implementing the ban.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are staunch supporters of a stable and prosperous Lebanon.

Richard Ferrer on the Al Quds march of shame
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“We cannot however be complacent when it comes to terrorism – it is clear the distinction between Hezballah’s military and political wings does not exist, and by proscribing Hezballah in all its forms, the government is sending a clear signal that its destabilising activities in the region are totally unacceptable and detrimental to the UK’s national security.

“This does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship.”

In a statement,  Israeli-Jewish Congress president Vladimir Sloutsker said: “The decision is long overdue, but it is just, right and proper, in the face of overwhelming evidence regarding the group’s terrorist activities, which are unmistakably led, run and funded by the regime of Iran and which pose a direct threat not only to the State of Israel, but Europe and the region as a whole.

“Whereas some still believe in superficial differences between Hezbollah’s so-called ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings, or worse yet, call the terror group ‘friends’, Theresa May’s government has rightly concluded it is clear such distinction “does not exist” and ought to be congratulated for taking a principled stand in showing real leadership in the fight against radical Islamic terror.
We hope that others in Europe follow the UK’s lead in once and for all banning this terrorist organization in full.”

In 2001 the UK Government proscribed part of Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation, part of its armed wing. In 2008 this was extended to include the whole wing, including Hezbollah’s Jihad Council.

Since then, diplomats have argued that the group’s political wing should not be proscribed as a terrorist outfit, in part because Hezbollah now forms part of the Lebanese government, but Jewish representatives say Hezbollah chiefs themselves draw no distinction between the different parts of their organisation. Hezbollah is already banned in full by America, Canada, the Netherlands and the Arab League.

Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel, the Community Security Trust, Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies, Zionist Federation and Israel Britain Alliance have also called for action.