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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Will Europe Define Hizbullah as a Terrorist Organization?

Filed under: Europe and Israel, Hizbullah, Iranian Terrorism, Radical Islam, Terrorism

This is not the first time Europe has waffled when it comes to defining terrorism. Since the days of Maximilian Robespierre, the word Terreur has evoked horror and aversion and sparked philosophical and political debates. The organizations and militias that fought against British or French colonialism were usually defined as “freedom fighters striving for self-determination.” At one point, the debate centered on how to define the Algerian FLN and the Palestinian PLO; it then moved on to separatist groups such as the Basque ETA or the Irish IRA. Today the debate focuses more on Hamas and Hizbullah, with the Europeans making a distinction between a “political wing” and a “military wing.”

Hizbullah was established in 1982, immediately after the First Lebanon War. More than 5,000 operatives of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps settled in the area of Baalbek, Lebanon, under the maxim “to fight until Allah’s final victory.” Their ideology was clear: the Islamic Revolution must rule the entire Middle East; it must overthrow the Arab monarchies and drive the Zionists out of all of Palestine including Jerusalem.

To achieve its goals, Hizbullah employed terror and threats against Western, Israeli, and Jewish targets. Since 1983, the Shiite organization has carried out dozens of attacks and suicide missions throughout the world.

Among the most notable were: a suicide attack on April 8, 1983, when a car exploded just outside the U.S. embassy in Beirut; 61were killed and 120 wounded. On October 23, 1983, two cars exploded at a base for French and American soldiers in Beirut; 239 U.S. marines and 74 French paratroopers were killed and numerous others wounded. On March 17, 1992, in an explosion at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, 29 were killed and over 200 wounded. Two years later, again in the Argentine capital, another explosion at the Jewish community center killed 85 and wounded over a hundred. The assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, and finally also the murderous attack on a busload of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, also came from the Hizbullah production line.

In recent years Hizbullah has planned other attacks as well, but thanks to the vigilance of the intelligence community, the attempts failed.

That is only a partial list. Yet the European countries, including France, still refuse to define Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. How can this be reconciled with common sense and the facts on the ground? All the legal or political issues that the Europeans have raised are just excuses. For over three decades Hizbullah has been operating as a terrorist organization in the full sense of the term; yet Europe is silent. The United States, Canada, Australia, and Israel, for their part, state the truth unequivocally. The Netherlands acts independently and takes the same position, thereby distinguishing itself from the other 26 EU countries; Britain only defines the “military wing” of Hizbullah as a terrorist body.

In February 2005, in the wake of the Hariri assassination, the European Parliament passed a resolution declaring that “clear evidence exists of terrorist activities on the part of Hizbullah.” Yet, even after the Burgas attack, France rejected an Israeli request and refused to vote in the European Parliament on a resolution defining Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.

The European Union, then, remains divided on an issue so serious and existential, and what is absurd is that meanwhile France is fighting terrorist organizations in Mali very far from its own soil. How is it that Europe still prevaricates and cannot call the phenomenon – which goes by the clear-cut name of “Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah” and is funded and supported by Iran – a terrorist organization? Why need there be a distinction between the political wing and the military wing? Is it not the same organization, with the same military headquarters? How can Europe ignore the chaos in Syria, where thousands of Iranian militiamen are propping up the Assad regime and may draw near to Israel’s borders? Has Europe’s passive stance succeeded to decrease the attacks by the Shiite terrorists? Has the European Union prevented the taking of hostages? Has it put a brake on the Islamic revolutions emerging from the “Arab Spring”? Has it been able to preserve the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon? Have the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon fulfilled their role – as they allow weapons and missiles to be smuggled under their noses into the Shiite villages?

Europe must rise from its slumber, change course, and take a courageous and sober decision free of worn-out ideological tenets. It must prohibit Hizbullah and impose sanctions on it, freeze its assets in European banks, and prevent any funding of terror. If Europe continues to dawdle, it will become a center of international terror, of blind and murderous religious terror under the command and control of the “Party of Allah.”