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Groups push E.U. to classify Hezbollah as terrorist organization
August 31st, 2012
The Hague (JTA) — The effort to get the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist group has become a major focus of Europe’s Jewish groups and other pro-Israel advocates.
The issue will be the main one on the agenda during a Sept. 2 work session in Brussels of the Foreign Affairs Network of B’nai B’rith Europe. The 20 or so participants will create a new plan to be applied shortly after E.U. institutions return later in the month from the summer recess.
The plan is to highlight inconsistencies in E.U. policy on Hezbollah and Hamas, and compare E.U. policies to other Western democracies.
The European Jewish Congress repeatedly has urged the E.U. to put Hezbollah on the terror group list, EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor told JTA.
The immediate goal, Kantor said, is ensuring an impartial investigation in Bulgaria. Israel attributes to Hezbollah the July 18 terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, which killed eight, including six Israeli tourists.
“The probe must not turn into another Buenos Aires,” Kantor said, referencing the 1994 bombing at the Jewish community’s main building in that city, leaving 86 people dead and another 300 wounded.
In 2006, Argentina accused Iran of the bombing. The late Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner called inconclusive probes a “national disgrace.”
Dutch legislator Wim Kortenoeven, a non-Jew with 12 years of experience lobbying for Israel, wants to get done as much as possible while he’s still in parliament.
The former researcher for CIDI, a pro-Israel NGO, left the Dutch Party for Freedom in July in a dispute with party leaders and is not seeking re-election in the country’s Sept. 12 general elections.
Kortenoeven has good starting conditions for his efforts. In 2008, the Netherlands emerged as the only E.U. member to declare Hezbollah and all its branches terrorist entities.
Britain considers only Hezbollah’s “military wing” a terrorist group. As a result, Hezbollah can operate all over the continent except the Netherlands.
Europe is “Hezbollah’s lifeline, money laundromat, and piggybank,” said Kortenoeven, who has written a book on Hamas.
Pro-Israel groups and individuals across Europe are trying to get their local governments and E.U. institutions to follow the Dutch example.
In Brussels, B’nai B’rith Europe is preparing a plan for lobbying the issue. The European Jewish Congress is bringing up the subject in meetings with E.U. officials and monitoring the investigation in Bulgaria. In France, the Jewish community is broaching the subject with the new president.
They all know that the U.S. State Department classified Hezbollah as a terrorist group 15 years ago, followed by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The European Council, the E.U.’s foreign policy maker, is resisting pressures to follow suit.
In 2005, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution identifying Hezbollah as a terrorist group, but the E.C. has ignored it.
Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF — French Jewry’s umbrella group — said France is blocking the move in order to preserve relations with Lebanon, a former French colony whose government is influenced by Hezbollah’s political party.
Even attacks by Hezbollah on French nationals have not persuaded the French government to designate the Shiite group as terrorist, said Prasquier.
Last year Alain Juppe, then French foreign minister, accused Hezbollah of attacking French U.N. peacekeepers near Tyre. Six were wounded in the explosion. Still, Prasquier said he has not seen any change in the French attitude toward Hezbollah since his country’s recent presidential election.
The French, he said, remain concerned about the safety of their peacekeepers in Lebanon. “Classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist group could expose these soldiers to risk, we are told,” he said.
Prasquier said the French and other governments may change their minds if the Bulgarians find Hezbollah is behind the July 18 attack.
He describes “a cynical reality” in which the E.U. classified Hamas as a terrorist organization in 2003, “since doing so was repercussions-free and because Hamas opposes the Palestinian Authority, which the French government supports. Hezbollah is a different story because it’s part of the Lebanese establishment. If you blacklist Hezbollah, you blacklist Lebanon.”
Observers see Germany as a major Hezbollah hub for fundraising and money laundering. The country’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, speaks in its annual threat report of some 950 Hezbollah supporters in Germany alone.
Without the E.U. policy to match that of the United States, few of Europe’s law enforcement agencies have legal basis for taking actions similar to what U.S. officials have done in blocking Hezbollah funds.
On Aug. 21, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency confiscated $150 million from a Lebanese bank called LCB. Hezbollah had “routinely used” the bank to launder money in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, the Treasury Department found.
Reinold Simon, honorary president of B’nai B’rith Europe, says calling Hamas a terrorist group while withholding the same judgment on Hezbollah “shows hypocrisy which undercuts the E.U.’s commitment to values.”