SARAH HONIG: THE EU AND HEZBOLLAH
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has urged the European Union to at long belated last “draw the necessary conclusions” and place Hezbollah on its terrorist list. He voiced his appeal after exhaustive Bulgarian investigations had firmly traced the bomb attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas last July to Hezbollah.
Similar entreaties were sounded by new US Secretary of State John Kerry, who exhorted the international community, and particularly European states, to take immediate action against Hezbollah. “We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity,” he said.
John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism top adviser, likewise called on the EU to take “proactive action to uncover Hezbollah’s infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks.” Blacklisting Hezbollah would empower the EU to freeze the organization’s assets in Europe.
But, hardly unexpectedly, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, equivocated and spoke about “the need for reflection over the outcome of the investigation.”
Europe remains impervious to Hezbollah’s exceptionally bloody record and ongoing war crimes. The mounting and very tangible evidence of critical Hezbollah complicity in the mass murder of Syrian civilians has not dented the EU’s disinclination to include the group on its list of terrorist organizations.
Israel has frequently asked the EU to label Hezbollah as terrorist, yet these requests fall on deaf ears.
To be sure, there are nuances in the overall European evasiveness. The Netherlands had designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization five years ago. But the official EU stance remains intractable. It is not that the EU’s most stubborn holdouts – Germany and France – do not know the facts about Hezbollah. It is just that they will not let facts interfere with their opinions.
It seems that absolutely nothing – not even the coldblooded murder of innocents on the soil of an EU member – can bring about a policy shift in Europe. That also goes for the no-longer contested realization that Hezbollah continuously escalates its pro-Assad intervention in Syria’s civil war and has become no less than a vital component of Bashar Assad’s “killing machine.”
There can be no more smug obfuscation of the picture – Hezbollah is not just a major force in Lebanon but a potent ideological/religious mercenary whose fighters, among other assignments, play a key role in attempts to strengthen Assad’s grip on power, rain terror on Syria’s populace and, if given a chance, grab control of the weapons of mass destruction in Syrian stockpiles.
Yet back in EU headquarters, Hezbollah is confoundingly still regarded as separate entity from its “military wing.” It is categorized as a social movement, part of Lebanon’s legitimate civic and political structure, rather than the Iranian backed terrorism exporter that it is.
Europe appears insistent on seeing only Hezbollah’s charitable front, though such fraudulent facades are part and parcel of the modus operandi of most terrorist outfits, a fact which should not surprise or have escaped the attention of Europe’s movers and shakers.
Rebutting such contentions, Netanyahu stressed that “there is only one Hezbollah; it is one organization with one leadership.”
It gets even stranger. While official Europe strains itself to hinder trade with Iran and punish given upper-echelon Syrians, it allows Hezbollah to raise funds quite boldly within the EU. Hezbollah boasts many adherents among Europe’s burgeoning Muslim communities, most notably in Germany.
Hezbollah emissaries visit their European adjuncts (often also sleeper cells) and openly solicit contributions there.
The cover story – in keeping with the EU’s formal perception of the organization – is that the money is earmarked for social-welfare and educational projects in Lebanon. Intelligence organizations worldwide agree, however, that money from Europe help to plug shortfalls and to bankroll terrorist operations.
The paradox is that while Europe clamps down on financial and commercial transactions with Iran and selected Assad sidekicks, it allows Hezbollah to do business that circumvents EU sanctions.
By no means is this an inconsistency that exclusively affects Israel. Europe permits a dormant terrorist potential to thrive in its midst and it knows so, its denials notwithstanding.
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