TEL AVIV – Germany on Thursday announced it officially recognizes all of Hezbollah, and not just its military wing, as a terrorist organization, marking a departure from its previous position which was in line with the EU.
Hezbollah activities “violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement.
Germany, like most of Europe, has until now dragged its feet in outlawing both the military and political arms of the Lebanon-based group out of concerns this would harm relations with Beirut.
The U.S., UK, Netherlands and Israel designates the group in its entirety a terror organization.
“Just as it is not possible to distinguish between political and religious members of the organization, it is also not possible to divide the organization into its political, social and military wings,” a 32-page long document from the Germany’s Interior Ministry states.
German police on Thursday morning raided mosques and residences associated with Hezbollah in various locations across the country after the ban was announced.
Even though there is no official branch of Hezbollah in Germany, security officials believe up to 1,050 people are affiliated with the group and the country has been used as both a recruiting and fundraising base, Reuters reported.
Hezbollah symbols may not be used publicly in any assembly, print, audio or visual material in Germany, and its assets will be confiscated “to the benefit of the Federal Republic of Germany,” the Interior Ministry’s statement reads.
“Violations of bans on organizations and activities are equally punishable,” the statement continues.
Hezbollah “openly calls for the violent elimination of the State of Israel and questions the right of the State of Israel to exist. The organization is therefore fundamentally against the concept of international understanding, regardless of whether it presents itself as a political, social or military structure.”
German security authorities can “use all available instruments of the rule of law to crack down on terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and take strict measures against their activities in Germany,” the statement adds.
“The organization is therefore fundamentally against the concept of international understanding, regardless of whether it presents itself as a political, social or military structure,” the German Interior Ministry said.
“Its violent denial of the right to exist of the state of Israel also fundamentally opposes Germany’s national ethos,” a separate Interior Ministry document states.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz lauded the decision as “very important and values-based.
Banning Hezbollah is “significant in the world battle against terror,” Katz added. “I want to express my appreciation to the German government for this step and am certain many governments in the Middle East and victims of Hezbollah’s terrorism share my gratitude.”
Katz called on the EU and other European states to follow suit and declare that “Hezbollah, its military and political arms, is a terrorist organization and must be treated that way.”
The American Jewish Committee also welcomed the move.
“This is a welcome, much-anticipated, and significant German decision,” AJC head David Harris said. “We now hope other European nations will take a close look at Germany’s decision and reach the same conclusion about the true nature of Hezbollah.”