(JNS.org) Intelligence experts state that Hezbollah operates freely throughout Europe, with its largest presence in Germany, where it has 950 members. These Hezbollah operatives organize rallies, hold protests against Israel and raise money that is sent back to its leadership in Lebanon, according to an Aug. 15 report in the New York Times.
However, U.S., Israeli and European officials are divided over Hezbollah’s presence in Europe. While the U.S. and Israel consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization based on its history of kidnappings, suicide bombings and assassinations, many European officials see Hezbollah as a complex organization that is involved in Lebanese politics and provides social and charitable services for its people.
Recently, the U.S. has lobbied hard for EU officials to blacklist Hezbollah given its suspected role in the July 18 bombing of a tour bus carrying Israelis in Bulgaria. EU officials, however, have been reluctant to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
“There’s a fear of attracting Hezbollah’s ire and eventually inviting Hezbollah operations in their own countries,” Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a terrorism expert, told the Times.