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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 March 2019

UK's decision on Hezbollah exposes philosophy of hate

Hezbollah has largely escaped consequences of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism

Hezbollah is already considered a terror group in its entirety by the US, Canada, Israel and the Arab League. AP Photo
Hezbollah is already considered a terror group in its entirety by the US, Canada, Israel and the Arab League. AP Photo

Since the demise of Al-Muhajiroun, the frothing, angry crowds of the Al Quds Day rally are the closest Britain’s streets have seen to the public cheer leading for terrorism familiar in portions of the Middle East.

The march is backed by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an extremist group with a penchant for nasty anti-Semitic conspiracies, but its cause célèbre and de facto purpose is to support Iran’s Lebanese catspaw, Hezbollah.

The flags flown don’t put a particular amount of effort into hiding what the intentions of Hezbollah are: they’re dominated by a jet green AK47 rifle.

Several attempts to halt the march or prosecute its ringleaders have been made, yet all have failed.

They have been thwarted by the peculiar legal loophole that while Hezbollah’s military wing is a proscribed group, support for which carries a ten year sentence, its political wing was exempted.

Until today that was, as Home Secretary Sajid Javid barred the group in the UK in its entirety.

Why now, critics will cry – questioning whether the Conservative Government’s decision is motivated in part by the desire to shame the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, who once called Hezbollah his “friends”.

They have a point, but only insofar as why the decision was not taken many years ago.

The Home Office conceded the inevitable today that it was “no longer tenable to distinguish between the military and political wings of Hezbollah”.

One person who will not be surprised in the slightest to hear that is Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s general secretary, who has said that “the story of military wing and political wing is the work of the British” and poured scorn on the notion of any separation.

The truth is these supposedly separate entities were always two sides of the same coin who made no effort to disguise their joint mission or activities.

Familiar with the challenges of Sunni extremism in this country, we have at times forgotten that its Shia counterpart is equally insidious if slightly less immediate.

It is Iran’s clerical regime that has acted as the chief sponsor of such terrorism in recent decades, yet Hezbollah has largely escaped the consequences of its actions.

Previous inaction has largely been driven by geopolitical tea-leaf reading, that claims to discern in intricate detail the long-term consequences of any decision on the geopolitical balance in the Middle East.

This sort of thinking usually concludes that doing the right thing on any issue will drive aggrieved parties into the hands of the Russians. It is a lesson far from borne out by history.

Considering the obstacles, the Home Secretary’s decision is therefore a remarkable one.

Yet all it does is recognise Hezbollah for exactly what it is: a terrorist organisation riddled throughout with a violent hate-induced creed.

Those who will criticise this decision have a difficult task ahead to win the public argument. For why should the UK not have recognised the absurdity of a distinction that Hezbollah itself denies?

If one branch of Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation, then all of it is. Which is a lesson Al Quds Day’s organisers will finally have to accept, given they will no longer be able to wave Hezbollah flags with impunity, no matter which branch they claim to be backing.

Dr Alan Mendoza is a founder and the Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society

Updated: February 25, 2019 08:47 PM

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