A U.S. counter-terrorism specialist has accused Hezbollah of “engaging in criminal conduct on British soil”, as the British government debates banning outright the Lebanese militant group.
Writing that “London has a Hezbollah problem”, Dr. Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described the UK’s debate this week on whether to ban the terrorist organisation outright as “long overdue”.
“Hezbollah continues to engage in terrorist and criminal activities—within the UK and the EU more broadly—despite the partial ban,” Dr. Levitt wrote.
In 2001, the UK designated Hezbollah as a terrorist entity and then the military wing was banned in 2008 after the Lebanese guerillas targeted British soldiers in Iraq. However, the political wing has not been proscribed – and this same model was adopted by the European Union in 2013.
The distinction is one that the terrorist organisation itself rejects. After meeting with the EU Ambassador to Lebanon in 2013, Hezbollah’s international relations officer Ammar Moussawi stated: “Everyone knows that Hezbollah’s political and military wings are one and the same.”
Dr. Levitt continued to accuse the terror organisation of “engaging in criminal conduct on British soil”, after a UK-based Hezbollah-linked network was exposed following U.S. and French arrests of two of the group’s associates in October 2015.
According to court documents, the associates offered to use “Hezbollah-connected associates” as security for narcotics shipments, one who was located in the UK. The associate laundered £30,000 for an undercover American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent with whom he discussed distributing cocaine shipments.
On Thursday, Members of Parliament debated in the House of Commons whether to designate the whole group as a terrorist entity.
Conservative and Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs back the motion, but Labour’s leadership advised its MPs not to support the bid, according to a briefing seen by The Jewish Chronicle:
“There is a balance between making absolutely clear our abhorrence of using violence to achieve political ends and at the same time encouraging organisations down an effective democratic path.”
The briefing added: “Full proscription could be a move against dialogue and meaningful peace negotiations in the Middle East.”
Socialist leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has warm opinions of Islamic terrorist organisations that threaten the existence of the Jewish state of Israel, having described Hezbollah and the Palestinian terror group Hamas as “friends” in 2009 and called Hamas “serious, hard-working and not corrupt” in 2017.
In June, members of London’s Jewish community criticised Labour mayor Sadiq Khan for his refusal to ban the annual al Quds Day march – started by the late Iranian religious leader the Ayatollah Khomeini to call for Israel to be destroyed – at which activists display Hezbollah flags.