Move to ban Lebanese militant group in its entirety welcomed by Israel and UK Jewish groups
The UK is to ban membership of or support for Hezbollah’s political wing, the home secretary has announced, as he accused the Lebanese Islamist movement of destabilising the Middle East.
“We are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” Sajid Javid said. “Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”
The government said the organisation continued to amass weapons in contravention of UN security council resolutions, while its support for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, had prolonged “the conflict and the regime’s brutal and violent repression of the Syrian people”.
The move comes against the backdrop of a push by the Trump administration to isolate Iran, which backs Hezbollah. Last week the US expressed concern about the group’s growing role in Lebanon’s government.
Hezbollah is a Shia militant movement established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war. It was the most popular single political party in the country’s parliamentary elections in 2018, and subsequently negotiated for three cabinet seats.
Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, said: “It is clear the distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings does not exist. This does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship.”
The US, unlike the EU, has proscribed the political wing, and the UK decision may complicate UK diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Hezbollah does not specifically divide itself into armed and political wings, and its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has said the group does not operate as two wings.
The decision was welcomed by Israel, which has a decades-long history of conflict with Hezbollah, and by UK-based Jewish groups including Labour Friends of Israel.
The Israeli security minister, Gilad Erdan, tweeted: “All who truly wish to combat terror must reject the fake distinction between ‘military’ & ‘political’ wings. Now is the time for the EU to follow suit!”
The decision was also welcomed by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who said “antisemitism and hate crime have no place in our city”.
A recent Labour party internal briefing paper argued against proscription on the basis that there “is a balance between making absolutely clear our abhorrence of using violence to achieve political ends and at the same time encouraging organisations down an effective democratic path. Full proscription could be a move against dialogue and meaningful peace negotiations in Middle East.”
The UK has been a regular donor to the Lebanese government, primarily to help it finance refugee camps and jobs for the wave of refugees that have entered the country.
Britain proscribes 74 international terrorist organisations under the Terrorism Act 2000.
Source: The Guardian