The vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel has written to Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott to urge the party to support the full proscription of Hezbollah because to not do so was now “untenable”.
Dame Louise Ellman’s “urgent” letter follows news that four north-west London properties were raided in 2015 and found to contain ingredients for bomb-making.
No-one was charged, but the Daily Telegraph revealed this week that it was part of an operation against agents of the Lebanon-based militia.
Until this year only Hezbollah’s military wing was proscribed, but in March Home Secretary Sajid Javid proscribed the organisation in its entirety after Jeremy Hunt became foreign secretary and overcame his diplomats’ reluctance.
“I am deeply concerned that Labour has refused to support calls for the full proscription of Hezbollah, even after the Government’s U-turn on the issue,” said Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside.
“The bomb materials may have been gathered as part of a plot to kill British Jews,” she said, adding: “In light of these revelations, continued opposition to the full proscription of Hezbollah by the Labour Party is untenable.”
Hezbollah was established in the Lebanese civil war and in response to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982. Resistance to Israel is an important part of its agenda, as is representing Lebanon’s Shia community.
It has been accused of carrying out terrorist attacks against Jews and Israelis around the world, including in Argentina and Bulgaria, and the UK proscribed its External Security Organisation in 2001, followed by its military wing in 2008.
Since then Hezbollah has gained significant support from Iran and its fighters helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regain control of his country. The organisation is now an important non-state actor in Lebanon, winning seats in elections and running several ministries.
Israeli leaders now think Hezbollah has taken over the Lebanese military, and in a parliamentary debate last year, Security Minister Ben Wallace admitted that “it is difficult to separate Hezbollah from the state of Lebanon”.
During the same debate, Shadow Security Minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said Labour continued to support the proscription of the group’s military wing.
He added: “Engagement with the Government and Parliament of Lebanon is important for the wider Middle East peace process, and we should be careful about damaging that engagement, but it is of course a question of balance.”