(July 26, 2021 / JNS) A bipartisan group of members in the U.S. House of Representatives initiated a resolution on Monday urging the European Union to remove its official distinction between Hezbollah as a political and military organization, and to designate the entire group as a terrorist organization.
According to a news release, the resolution was introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), along with Reps. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.). It was co-introduced by Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and ranking member of the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States; however, the European Union splits the group into two branches—a political wing and a military wing.
The military wing of Hezbollah is on the E.U.’s list of sanctioned terrorist organizations, but not what it defines as the political wing.
According to Julie Rayman, senior director of policy and political affairs at the American Jewish Committee, that distinction allows the branch designated as the political wing of the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah to spread its influence outside of the Middle East and create a terrorist infrastructure across Europe.
The United States doesn’t recognize this distinction and includes the entire Hezbollah entity on its U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
While the E.U. as a whole differentiates between various wings, many individual nations recognize the entire group as a terrorist organization, including Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, as well as Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League, according to an AJC news release.
“When you are dealing with a ruthless terrorist organization like Hezbollah, there is no distinction between political and militant wings,” said Deutch, who is chairman of the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee. “I’m pleased that many European countries took action to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, as the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have also done. But we need the European Union to cease allowing Hezbollah’s so-called political wing to freely operate by joining us in fully targeting this terrorist group and its global criminal network.”
The military wing of Hezbollah was added to the list of terrorist organizations by the E.U. in 2013, at the urging of Bulgaria, which experienced a terrorist attack by Hezbollah in 2012, and Cyprus, which foiled an attack planned by Hezbollah during the same year.
“The European Union’s distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘military’ and ‘political’ wing is both dishonest and does little to address its fundraising and recruitment efforts,” Meijer said in the release. “This resolution urges the E.U. to recognize the reality that Hezbollah—in its entirety—is a terrorist organization and takes steps to better combat its nefarious operations around the world.”
In addition to its terrorist activity, Hezbollah continues to engage in the illicit trafficking of narcotics, weapons, money-laundering, stockpiling explosives and surveillance in European cities. According to AJC, a recognition of Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization would hamper its abilities to fundraise, recruit and mobilize.
“We encourage swift passage of this important bipartisan resolution pressing the E.U. to do the right thing and correct the fiction of a bifurcated Hezbollah it endorsed nearly a decade ago,” said AJC CEO David Harris in a news release. “Mistakenly believing it can tame Hezbollah’s behavior, a proposition unsupported by evidence, the E.U. has created ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings within Hezbollah, when, in reality, it is a single, unified terrorist entity.”
“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in the Middle East and around the globe,” Manning said in a release. “Their impact on the disintegration of Lebanon has been devastating; they amplify the destructive influence of Iran, and they pose a danger to the entire region. I am calling on the E.U. to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and to work closely with the United States to implement sanctions, share intelligence and curb Hezbollah’s malign regional influence.”
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