To great fanfare, Berlin announced in April 2020 that it outlawed all activities of the Lebanese terrorist movement Hezbollah within the territory of the Federal Republic. However, the ban remains a dead letter because Germany and its 16 states largely refuse to enforce it.
According to a 2021 intelligence report from the state of Lower Saxony’s domestic intelligence agency, the number of Hezbollah’s supporters and members in Germany rose from 1,050 in 2019 to 1,250 in 2020. Despite the ban, Germany has not arrested them. Note that a mere three Hezbollah operatives managed to blow up a tour bus in Bulgaria in 2012, resulting in the murder of five Israelis and their Bulgarian Muslim bus driver.
Hezbollah remains a deadly threat to Jews and Israelis in Europe.
Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany who was largely responsible for impelling Berlin to pass its anti-Hezbollah ban, tweeted in June 2021: “It’s good the Germans moved last year to outlaw Hezbollah, despite the E.U.’s inaction. The German government now has more legal tools to shut Hezbollah down and arrest its supporters.”
The pressing question is: Will Germany and its constituent states use their new legal and counter-terrorism tools to crack down on Hezbollah’s activities?
Take the disturbing example of the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, where Hezbollah stored ammonium nitrate and currently has 75 active operatives, according to the state’s most recent intelligence report.
Hezbollah terrorists have used ammonium nitrate to plot bomb attacks in Argentina, Britain, Bulgaria, Cyprus and France, and the same explosive material destroyed the Beirut port in August 2020, killing 218 people, wounding more than 7,000 others, leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless and causing more than $15 billion in property damage.
In September 2020, Timur Lutfullin, a parliamentary advisor for the Free Democratic Party in the Baden-Württemberg state government, contacted me and noted that he along with two politicians “prepared the initiative … regarding Hezbollah activities in Baden-Württemberg.”
The initiative came in the form of a questionnaire that sought answers from the state’s government about how Hezbollah was able to store explosive materials in Baden-Württemberg and what the state was doing to combat the terrorist organization.
Lutfullin added, “We would like to continue [with] the issue in the public [sphere] and to grow the pressure on our government.”
The sense of urgency about Hezbollah’s activities in Baden-Württemberg has intensified since it was revealed that Michael Blume, the state’s commissioner tasked with fighting anti-Semitism, has promoted via likes and retweets a Twitter account run by Axel Mylius, a reportedly German anti-Semite who a launched radical Islamist initiative in Berlin. Mylius is a former “great friend” (and likely still a supporter) of Hezbollah’s chief financial sponsor and ally—the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Documents show how Mylius, using the name “Omar Mylius,” celebrated the Islamic Republic’s anti-Semitic 1979 Islamic Revolution at a commemoration event held at Tehran’s embassy in Berlin. Mylius is deemed anti-Semitic by the Vienna-based think tank Mena-Watch.
Mylius’s Twitter account has compared Israelis Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fascists, clear examples of contemporary anti-Semitism. Blume did not object to the comparisons when sent press queries; he also went silent about the dangers posed by the terrorist entity Hezbollah in Baden-Württemberg.
All of this helps to explain why the prominent Jewish human-rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center included Blume on its “Top 10” list of the worst outbreaks of global anti-Semitism for 2021.
Blume, wrote Wiesenthal, “has continued since 2019 social-media activity where he ‘Liked’ a Facebook posting comparing Zionists to Nazis. He has since continued to ‘Like’ and retweet anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and conspiratorial Twitter accounts.”
Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO, said of Blume: “It is distressing that a public official entrusted with fighting anti-Semitism would ‘Like’ Facebook comparisons of Zionism to Nazism, not speak out against a bank that counts amongst its clients an organization dedicated to delegitimizing Israel, and not call for an end of relations between Freiburg and an Iranian regime that issues genocidal calls for Israel’s elimination.”
The city of Freiburg in Baden-Württemberg is helping to mainstream both Iran—the worst state-sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism, according to the U.S. government—and Iran’s proxy Hezbollah.
Mariaschin added that “this appears to be another example of the convenience of taking aim at Israel with no penalty. Contemporary anti-Semitism is very much about the campaign to demonize the Jewish state. Understanding that reality should very much be a requirement for holding a position intended to call out those who engage in this kind of blatant defamation.”
Michael Wolffsohn, a distinguished German-Jewish historian and commentator on modern anti-Semitism, told the Swiss daily NZZ that Blume promotes the cause of anti-Semites.
“Hence my simplified conclusion: Blume is a useful idiot of anti-Semites,” said Wolffsohn.
Henryk M. Broder, a best-selling author and a columnist for Die Welt, said Blume is not a classical anti-Semite, but he “relativizes anti-Semitism.” Broder has testified to a Bundestag panel on modern Jew-hatred in Germany.
Blume should be dismissed from his post because he continued to ignore the Hezbollah threat in his state. Equally disturbing, Baden-Württemberg’s Interior Minister Thomas Strobl and Gov. Winfried Kretschmann are enabling Blume’s attacks on Jews and Israel, and refusing to clamp down on Hezbollah.
Hans-Ulrich Rülke, a member of the state legislature in Baden-Württemberg from the Free Democratic Party, said “Strobl must finally act and prevent Hezbollah-affiliated organizations from inviting hate preachers to Baden-Württemberg and collecting money for terrorist purposes.”
Hezbollah’s activities are not limited to Baden-Württemberg. The terrorist organization’s members and network crisscross the Central European country. There are 180 Hezbollah members and supporters in the state of Lower Saxony, up 20 from 2019.
If Germany were at all serious about its prohibition of Hezbollah activities, Chancellor Olaf Scholz would order the arrest of all of the terrorist movement’s members and shut down its mosques and associations in the Federal Republic.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.